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“You thrill me, Lord, with all You have done for me!
I sing for joy because of what You have done.
O Lord, what great works You do!
And how deep are Your thoughts.
Only a simpleton would not know,
and only a fool would not understand this:
Though the wicked sprout like weeds
and evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever”
(Psalm 92:4-7, NLT).

My husband Larry loves rollercoasters; me, I’m terrified of them. My idea of high adventure is bicycling around Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park. One thing we can both agree on, though, is this: Jesus Christ is the biggest thrill in our lives.

What about you? When you think of “…all [He has] done for [you],” does it make you want to “…sing for joy…?” I hope so!

When believers look around and see those who don’t know Christ as Lord and Savior happily plugging along through life with financial security and seemingly few problems, sometimes we wonder how we got so short-changed. “…Simpleton[s]…” that we can sometimes be, we forget that we didn’t get short-changed – we inherited the wealth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Our eternal home and the glories of heaven will outweigh the most luxurious lifestyle ever seen on this earth.

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither” (C. S. Lewis).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“David assigned… men to lead the music at the house of the Lord after the Ark was placed there. They ministered with music at the Tabernacle until Solomon built the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. They carried out their work, following all the regulations handed down to them. These are the men who served, along with their sons…” (I Chronicles 6:31-33a, NLT).

I recall visiting my grandfather’s church many times when I was a youngster. Papa often led the music and I can remember being so proud of him as he stood, little red hymnal in hand, joyfully singing out, “How Firm A Foundation,” “Bringing in the Sheaves,” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

Something else I recall, though: the vast majority of the congregation was women and children. Rather than attending themselves, many of the men sent their wives and kids to get their Sunday dose of religion for them. Folks, it was wrong then and it’s wrong now.

Men were ordained by God to lead in worship (which is not to say that women can’t also be spiritual leaders – how many families depend on a mom as the head of the household?) and yet many of them have allowed Satan to convince them that attending church, praying, and reading the Bible is for wimps. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ladies and gentlemen, don’t just come to “church.” Come to worship. Bring your Bible – and don’t keep it in the back car seat in between Sundays. Read it daily. Do this and you’ll not only grow as a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, you’ll be setting an example that will lead your children along the right pathway.

“These are the men who served, along with their sons…” (I Chronicles 6:33a).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“…I envied the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Their mouths lay claim to heaven,

and their tongues take possession of the earth.

When I tried to understand all this,

it troubled me deeply

till I entered the sanctuary of God;

then I understood their final destiny.

Those who are far from You will perish;

But as for me, it is good to be near God.

I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge”

(Psalm 73:3, 9, 16-17, 27a, 28a, NIV).

Just like the psalmist Asaph, it’s easy to look around at those who seem to have it “made in the shade” who show no love for God or compassion for others. Turn on the news and we see horrible crimes taking place across the globe, many of which are committed by people who are never caught and brought to earthly justice.

On a smaller scale, we can often look closer to home and see someone we’d term as “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” showing a smiling face one minute and backstabbing those around them the next. Hardly a new problem, though. Asaph saw it in his day and he struggled with why these people were getting away with their evil deeds.

He said he struggled, that is, “until I entered the sanctuary of God.” And then what happened? The Lord showed Asaph their eternal reality: “then I understood their final destiny. Those who are far away from you will perish.”

No matter how upside down things may seem here on earth, God will make all things right in the end. He, not me or you, is the Final Judge, and He has EVERYTHING – even what looks like total chaos – completely under His control.

So why are so many bad things going on if God is in control? He’s allowing those things that sin/disobedience has set in motion.

But here’s the Good News: I firmly believe with all my heart that every true believer who leaves this world never recalls one unhappy or painful moment. There’s no memory of anything bad or negative. “…no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4b, NLT).

How does a person arrive at this wonderful place? Only by having put his or her faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Do you know Him? Truly know Him? If you do, you live for Him. And you can confidently say with the psalmist: “I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge.”


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


Today’s passage ends with the history of the tribes who remained east of the Jordan when the Israelites entered the Promised Land:

“There were 44,760 capable warriors in the armies of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. They were all skilled in combat and armed with shields, swords, and bows. But these tribes were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors. They worshiped the gods of the nations that God had destroyed. So the God of Israel caused King Pul of Assyria (also known as Tiglath-pileser) to invade the land and take away the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh as captives. The Assyrians exiled them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the Gozan River, where they remain to this day” (First Chronicles 5:18, 25-26, NLT).

These Israelites had plenty of military men and weaponry, but what they didn’t have – as we looked at yesterday – was a healthy fear of God. Because of their unfaithfulness, they ended up slaves of the Assyrian ruler Tiglath-pileser.

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, actual Assyrian inscriptions uncovered by archaeologists “…afford striking corroboration of the Biblical narrative. Pul assumed the name of one of his predecessors, Tiglath-pileser I, and reigned as Tiglath-pileser III [from] 745 B.C. to 727 B.C. [as] … one of the greatest of Assyrian monarchs.”

A monument discovered in the ruins of ancient Assyria has an inscription that gives you an idea of the sort of brutality the Assyrians inflicted upon their captors: “Their men, young and old, I took as prisoners. Of some I cut off the feet and hands; of others I cut off the noses, ears, and lips; of the young men’s ears I made a heap; of the old men’s heads I built a minaret (a tall narrow tower).”

So much suffering and all of it needless. The decisions we make today affect our own futures and our future generations. Choose a strong faith in Jesus.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Those who are wise must finally die,
 just like the foolish and senseless,
 leaving all their wealth behind.
But as for me, God will redeem my life.
 He will snatch me from the power of the grave”
(Psalm 49:10, 15, NLT).

No one escapes death. Yes, the Bible records a couple of people who didn’t experience physical death: Enoch and Elijah – see Genesis 5:23-24 and Second Kings 2:11. But for the rest of us, unless we’re alive when the Rapture of the Church occurs, there will come a day when we draw our last breath on this planet.

What you’ve done with Jesus Christ prior to that moment will determine where you take your next breath. For those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the place will be heaven. David confidently trusted that his life would be “…snatch[ed] from the power of the grave.” And so can you.

For the believer in Jesus Christ, death is the natural transition into the eternal supernatural. While I don’t think any mentally healthy person relishes the idea of dying, no Christian should fear it. Ecclesiastes 12:13 tells us what we are to fear: “Fear God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person.”

No one will escape God’s judgment. No unbeliever will enter heaven, and no believer will miss it. There so many confused and lost people in this world. Don’t be one of them. Know the Light and share Him.

“A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell” (C. S. Lewis).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 43-45, 49, 84-85, 87

Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Abraham was the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac were Esau and Israel. The sons of Israel were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. Jesse’s first son was Eliab, his second was Abinadab, his third was Shimea, his fourth was Nethanel, his fifth was Raddai, his sixth was Ozem, and his seventh was David” (First Chronicles 1:34, 2:1-2, 13-15, NLT).

In Genesis 12:1 Abram (whom the Lord renamed Abraham) was told, “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you.” Obediently he took his wife Sarai (whom the Lord renamed Sarah) and went. Then in Genesis 15:5 Abraham was told by the Lord, “Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that – too many to count!”

Only problem with God’s message was that Abraham was older than dirt and he and Sarah had no children! So what did he do? The next verse tells us: “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord declared him righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6).

In Exodus 1:9 we read the words of Pharaoh, unknowingly affirming the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham: “These Israelites are becoming a threat to us because there are so many of them.”

From 100-year-old Abraham came Isaac; and from Isaac came Jacob whom the Lord renamed Israel - see Genesis 32:28. And through Israel's son Judah came the line from which Jesse’s son David was chosen as king. And that same line was the one through which the Lion of Judah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords chose to be born in human flesh to walk this earth as a Perfect Man and then die as the One Perfect Sacrifice for the sins of fallen man.

Abraham. One man’s faith – and look at what happened. Imagine the promises in store for the generations of your family because of your faith. What are you believing God for?


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers –
the moon and the stars You set in place –
what are mere mortals that You should think about them,
human beings that You should care for them?
Yet You made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything You made,
 putting all things under their authority –
 O Lord, our Lord, Your majestic Name fills the earth!”
(Psalm 8:3-6, 9, NLT).

David asked a question that all of us should ask as we look around at the wonders of all God’s creation: “…what are mere mortals that You should think about them, human beings that You should care for them?” What an amazing love the Lord has to love us flawed and constantly problem-causing humans!

And yet He, in His incredible compassion and mercy, entrusted “…everything [He] made…” into our care. While we’re not to worship nature as deity, we are to worship the Creator who gave us the beautiful landscape of this planet. And we’re also to care for it. Believers in Jesus Christ should do their part to conserve energy; reduce landfill waste; prevent littering; and anything else that will help maintain this magnificent place we call Earth.

While we’re caring for our temporary home, though, we’re to be telling others about the eternal place God is preparing for His people. Who have you told today?

“But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world where everyone is right with God” (II Peter 3:13).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21

Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


In First Samuel 16:13 we read where the Lord showed Samuel that David was the one to be anointed as king over Israel. He was to replace the wayward ruler Saul. But years passed and David still wasn’t on the throne and had even gone into hiding out of fear for his life as Saul, intent upon David’s death, pursued him.

In today’s passage David learns of the deaths of Saul and his son Jonathan. He mourned this loss, but asked the Lord, “Should I move back to one of the towns of Judah?” and the Lord replied, “Yes” (from II Samuel 2:1, NLT). So David sent a message to the people of Israel, “Now that Saul is dead, I ask you to be my strong and loyal subjects like the people of Judah, who have anointed me as their new king” (II Samuel 2:7, NLT).

“But Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had already gone to Mahanaim with Saul’s son Ishbosheth. There he proclaimed Ishbosheth king over… Israel. Meanwhile, the people of Judah remained loyal to David. David made Hebron his capital, and he ruled as king of Judah for seven and a half years” (II Samuel 2:8-9, 10b-11).

Ishbosheth’s kingship and the resulting fighting between Judah and Israel “…was the beginning of a long war between those who were loyal to Saul and those loyal to David. As time passed David became stronger and stronger, while Saul’s dynasty became weaker and weaker” (II Samuel 3:1).

As a young man – hardly more than a boy – David was anointed king over all of God’s people Israel. But his ascent to the throne didn’t happen immediately or even in a short time. And in the meantime David did nothing to force his way into power.

If the Lord has made you a promise about anything, wait on His timing. As we’ll see with King David, God’s timing is always perfect.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“I look up to the mountains –
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
the One who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, He who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps”
(Psalm 121:1-4, NLT).

Do you ever feel totally alone and deserted? I sure have. But the truth is, if you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, He is always with you. Just look at the promises in the passage above:

  • Your “…help come[s] from the Lord.” Where could you get greater help? Nowhere! You have the most awesome Power in existence ready to meet your needs.
  • “He will not let you stumble.” If you attune yourself to the Holy Spirit, He will keep you from slipping up. You won’t have to wonder if something is right or wrong – He’ll tell you.
  • “The One who watches over you will not slumber.” God is with you 24/7. He’s the on-time, all-the-time God who loves you unconditionally. There is never a problem too big to take to Him and there’s never a time when He’s too busy to listen.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 121, 123-125, 128-130

Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“I love You, Lord;
You are my strength.
The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Savior;
my God is my Rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my Shield, the Power that saves me,
and my Place of Safety.
I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and He saved me from my enemies”
(Psalm 18:1-3, NLT).

In this psalm of praise, David thanks the Lord for saving him from his enemies: the Philistines; the Amalekites; and even his own nation’s king, Saul. He proclaims the Lord his “Rock, Fortress, Savior, Shield, Power that saves and Place of Safety.” If you look back through David’s psalms, you find him praising the Lord even while he was still waiting on this deliverance.

How about you? How much do you praise the Lord IN your troubles? Your willingness to give Him glory when things aren’t going well determines the attitude with which you handle your troubles. And the way you cope with your troubles shows both professing believers and unbelievers how a Christian trusts in Jesus Christ even when he finds himself in a very negative situation.

Don’t wait for good times to praise the Lord.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1, a psalm of David, ESV).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Samuel 28-31; Psalm 18

Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“O God, You are my God;
I earnestly search for You.
My soul thirsts for You;
my whole body longs for You
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen You in Your sanctuary
and gazed upon Your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise You!
I will praise You as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to You in prayer”
(Psalm 63:1-4, NLT).

David, out in the wilderness of Judah, knew what it was like to be thirsty. But as he wrote this psalm, he wasn’t thinking about physical desires, but spiritual ones. Look at what he says in these four short verses:

  • “I EARNESTLY search for you.” How much effort are you putting into seeking the Lord? So many people tell me they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing with their lives. Just start doing something that you know will honor Him. Make that first move and He will continue to point you in the direction you should go.
  • “My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you…” Spiritual thirst can only be quenched by the Living Water. Jesus Christ isn’t hiding from you – you have as much of Him as you truly want.
  • “I will praise You as long as I live, lifting my hands to You in prayer.” Want more of God? Praise Him! Be bold! Be radical! If your church doesn’t show much in the way of outward displays of praise, dare to be different – even if your hand-raising is only during times of prayer when the congregations eyes are closed.

God has so much more for each of us than most of us ever experience. Seek Him and know the mighty work He wants to do IN you and THROUGH you.


Copyright 2017

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Now Samuel died, and all Israel gathered for his funeral” (I Samuel 25:1, NLT).

Samuel had been faithful to God and the often unfaithful nation of Israel knew it. Are you a faithful follower of Jesus Christ? Both the faithful and the faithless know the real thing when they see it.

Some years ago I attended the funeral of a professing believer who, to my knowledge, never went to a church service in all his adult years. The pastor who’d been drummed up by family members and spoke at his funeral couldn’t even keep up with the man’s name and struggled valiantly to make some positive statements about the deceased’s faith.

A dear friend of mine, also a professing believer along with her husband, are currently bringing up two children who have hardly ever been inside the doors of a church. How are these children ever going to know the wonderful word of God? How are they ever going to know the priceless worth of Jesus Christ? Yes, I know these things can be taught at home, but are they? If parents don’t see the value of being a part of a church, their children certainly won’t see the importance, either.

My paternal grandparents left no money, but flooded our family with their examples of faith. When your time to leave this world comes, what will be said at your funeral? Who will be there? What will you be remembered for? And what values will you have left behind for your family to follow?


Copyright 2017

Judy Woodward Bates 


“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8, NLT).

Don’t ever think that Jesus Christ doesn’t care about what you’re going through – He does. And don’t ever think that the tears you shed as you pray for yourself, your family, your friends, your church, your country, this world, and anything else that lies heavy on your heart are without purpose. God is keeping track of them!

Most of you are aware that Larry and I have two granddaughters we’ve never been allowed to meet. We last visited with our son and daughter-in-law on Easter Sunday eleven years ago. Since that very uneventful day, all communication stopped and they’ve ignored all our efforts to find out why or reestablish our relationship. Meanwhile, they’ve brought two beautiful daughters into the world.

Larry and I both have cried an ocean of tears over this. And as we’ve cried, the Lord has heard us, comforted us, and collected and recorded every single one of our tears. The Man of Sorrows knows our sorrow and has replaced our tears with absolute peace, even though our situation hasn’t changed.

Is God the holdup in reuniting our family? Certainly not. But He is the Sustainer and Giver of Peace that keeps us living joyfully and fully even as we wait for that day to come.

Whatever you’re going through; whatever you’re waiting for; He is enough and He is faithful.

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 56, 120, & 140-142

Copyright 2017

Judy Woodward Bates 


“I come to you for protection, O Lord my God. Save me from my persecutors – rescue me!” (Psalm 7:1, NLT).

“Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the right path, for my enemies are waiting for me. Do not let me fall into their hands. For they accuse me of things I’ve never done…” (Psalm 27:11-12a).

“The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time” (Psalm 34:19).

Ever been accused of something you didn’t do? I have. And one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done was to refuse to bad-mouth the person who invested a great deal of her own time and energy into bad-mouthing me. Instead, I did what David did – I gave my problem to the Lord and asked Him to deliver me.

And He did. Did His deliverance include clearing my name with everyone who’d heard the falsehood the other person was spreading? No. But what He did do was give me absolute peace. I stopped worrying about what that person was saying or who she was saying it to, and started praying for her. And the longer I prayed for her, the more I found myself sincerely wanting good for her rather than hoping to see payback.

Got enemies? Pray for them.

“I have heard the many rumors about me… But I am trusting you, O Lord… My future is in your hands” (Psalm 31:13a, 14a, 15a).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 7, 27, 31, 34, & 52

Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


After being upstaged by David, Saul decided that David must die. David ended up fleeing for his life and hiding out in a cave. We pick up the story here:

“After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats. At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave! ‘Now’s your opportunity!’ David’s men whispered to him. ‘Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’ So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, David came out and shouted after him, ‘My lord the king!’ And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him. Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me. When David had finished speaking, Saul called back, ‘Is that really you, my son David?’ Then he began to cry. And he said to David, ‘You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil’” (I Samuel 24:1-4, 7b-8, 11, 16-17, NLT).

David, urged by his men, could have killed Saul and felt justified in doing so. But he refused to harm the one God had made king over Israel, choosing instead to wait on the Lord’s timing to ascend to the throne himself. We need to be careful about taking matters into our own hands. Sometimes “opportunities” aren’t opportunities, but tests.

Secondly, look at Saul’s response to David’s behavior: “…you have repaid me good for evil.” Saul wasn’t the only one who saw this – his 3,000 companions also witnessed it, as well as all the men who had accompanied David. Word gets around. People talk. And when they talk about you as a believer in Jesus Christ, your behavior should cause them to speak of your kindness, not your vindictiveness.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike. When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song: ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!’ This made Saul very angry. ‘What’s this?’ he said. ‘They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!’ So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David” (I Samuel 18:5-9, NLT).

One day Jill decided to exercise her authority over newly hired underling Tisha, instructing her to finish a project that their boss, Nathan, had originally dumped in Jill’s lap. Tisha completed the project in record time; then delivered it to Nathan who praised Tisha’s quick start at the company, assuring her, “People like you have a real future here.”

Jill was more than bit miffed. She’d figured on Tisha needing her help. She’d already rehearsed her speech to Nathan about “the new girl just putting more work on me while I train her.” Instead of Jill’s move earning her points with her boss, Tisha scored the kudos while Jill stood watching from the sidelines – kind of like Saul did with David.

Jealousy is lethal. It can destroy a relationship, a career, and even a home. Refuse to go through life with “a jealous eye.”

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: First Samuel 18-20; Psalm 11 & 59

Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


The Lord sent Samuel to Bethlehem to the house of a man named Jesse to anoint the new king; but He had not yet told Samuel who that person would be. Jesse assembled his seven big strapping sons, but the Lord didn’t indicate any of them as the chosen one.

At last Samuel turned to Jesse and asked, “Are these all the sons you have?” (I Samuel 16:11, NLT). Then Jesse told him that he had one more, but that he was out in the fields taking care of the family’s sheep. Samuel told Jesse to send for him and, when the young man arrived, he was the runt of the litter and the youngest of them all!

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).

Little David was the “…man after [God’s] own heart” (I Samuel 13:14b).

You may not consider yourself the biggest, best, or even brightest bulb in the box; but you have to remember that these are not the attributes God is looking at. He sees the heart; and will work great things through anyone who is seeking after His.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


Israel had demanded a king and they’d gotten one – Saul. Samuel was no longer over the people of Israel, but as the Lord told him, “it is Me they are rejecting, not you” (I Samuel 8:7, NLT). By asking for an earthly king, they’d rejected their Heavenly One and were going to reap the harvest of their foolish behavior.

Saul was fighting with the Israelite army against the Philistines. Samuel had instructed Saul to wait for him at Gilgal where Samuel would come and offer sacrifices and pray for the Lord to give them victory over the Philistines.

But like we are today, Saul was impatient and his troops were tired of waiting, too. Finally, Saul commanded, “‘Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!’ And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself. Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, ‘What is this you have done?’ ‘Saul replied, ‘I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.’ ‘How foolish!’ Samuel exclaimed. ‘You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of His people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (I Samuel 13:9-14).

Saul was a big man, but not too big for the Lord to discipline. Saul had become enamored with his own power and had forgotten Who placed him in that position of authority. Therefore, his authority was about to be removed and given to “…a man after His own heart.”

Are you “…a man [or woman] after [God’s] own heart?” These are the people He blesses.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


Samuel has made his farewell speech. The people have asked for a king, so Samuel will no longer lead them as their judge. But even though he’s being displaced, he tells the people: “As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve Him. Think of all the wonderful things He has done for you” (I Samuel 12:23-24, NLT).

A good while back, Larry and I ran into a guy who had attended our church a couple of years previously. We chatted a while and then asked him where he and his family were presently going to church. “Oh,” he said, “my business is taking off like wildfire and I’m working six days a week. Sunday is our only day to relax.” In other words, they weren’t going to any church.

Folks, if God is good enough to be our God in the bad times, He certainly ought to be our God in the good times. In fact, if He’s God at all, He’s God of All – good times and bad.

If you aren’t regularly attending a Bible-teaching, Jesus-preaching church, find one and get started. Learn and grow with a group of fellow believers. Heed the words of Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (NIV).

God is good, so “…faithfully serve Him. Think of all the wonderful things He has done for you.”


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


In that great old hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” we sing the words, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come.”

Why are we raising an “Ebenezer” and, even if we are, what are we raising? The word comes from a portion of today’s passage. I hope you’re reading the entire sections for our through-the-Bible study; if not, let me urge you to read this one – it’s power-packed.

In today’s passage, we see that the Ark of the Covenant had been captured by the Philistines. But the Lord sent such trouble upon them that they returned it to the Israelites. Still, the Philistines continued to be a thorn in Israel's flesh. Samuel, who was judge over Israel, told the people, "If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Determine to obey only the Lord; then He will rescue you from the Philistines” (I Samuel 7:3, NLT).

The people did as Samuel told them and the Lord intervened so that the Israelites were able to defeat the Philistines. And that’s when “Samuel… took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means ‘the stone of help’), for he said, ‘Up to this point the Lord has helped us!’ So the Philistines were subdued and didn’t invade Israel again for some time” (I Samuel 7:12-13a).

You, my brothers and sisters, also have a Stone of Help. Got problems? You’ve also got an Ebenezer! Lift up His Name and see Him perform a mighty work in your life.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


Hannah, the previously barren wife of Elkanah, had been blessed with a son, Samuel, whom she promised to dedicate to the Lord. True to her word, she brought him to the temple as a young boy, and he served and trained under Eli the priest. Eli had two sons, which the Bible says, “…were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord or for their duties as priests” (I Samuel 2:12b-13a, NLT).

One has to wonder about Eli’s efforts as a disciplinarian, particularly in light of the fact that he didn’t seem to be particularly in tune with the Lord. After all, if you read First Samuel 1:14, which was before Samuel was conceived, Eli had already accused Hannah of being drunk rather than in fervent prayer. We see him again having difficulty recognizing the movement of God:

“Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon. One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God. Suddenly the Lord called out, ‘Samuel!’ ‘Yes?’ Samuel replied. ‘What is it?’ He got up and ran to Eli. ‘Here I am. Did you call me?’ ‘I didn’t call you,’ Eli replied. ‘Go back to bed.’ So he did. Then the Lord called out again, ‘Samuel!’ Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. ‘Here I am. Did you call me?’ ‘I didn’t call you, my son,’ Eli said. ‘Go back to bed.’ Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. ‘Here I am. Did you call me?’ Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, ‘Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’” (I Samuel 3:1-9a, NLT).

If we want to recognize the voice of God, we have to be attuned to Him by faithfully praying, reading our Bibles and gathering with fellow believers. Through His Holy Spirit, God still speaks to people today. Has He spoken to you? Be ready to hear and obediently respond.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


When the widow Naomi’s two sons died, one of her two Moabite daughter-in-laws returned to her own people. The other one, Ruth, refused to leave her mother-in-law, telling her: “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16, NLT).

Ruth’s words are often repeated as part of a wedding ceremony. Her commitment was firm – Rock solid, in fact. She promised not to leave; to go wherever Naomi chose to go; to live wherever Naomi chose to live; and to accept Naomi’s people and God has her own. In other words, her commitment was completely selfless.

So many people today tend to live by the motto of “to thine own self be true” – if it’s not the best move or decision for ME, I’m outa there. “I” problems are destroying our homes and marriages. And married or single, there is nothing pleasing to God about an I-centered lifestyle.

What motivates you – self-desire or the needs of others?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, NIV).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25, NLT).

At least four times in the book of Judges you see the above passage repeated. And if you read the remaining chapters of the book, you see just how messed up the people of Israel had become. Why?

“Israel had no king.” More accurately, “Israel had no King.” The Lord wasn’t revered as head of the nation. Therefore, “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” And what the people decided was right and what was truly right were at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Let me add another reminder that the people of the Old Testament lived pre-grace. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, didn’t indwell all believers as He came to do after Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected. Jesus had told His followers, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you” (John 16:7, KJV).

And because we believers of today have God within us, His Holy Spirit to “…guide [us] into all truth…” (John 16:13, Jesus speaking), we are “…without excuse” (Romans 1:20) when we sin. We know better. We have God Himself inside of us warning us away from every wrongful thought or action.

Who is your King? Whoever or whatever is most important to you. I pray your answer is Jesus.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


Samson, an Israelite and a Nazirite, didn’t want an Israelite wife – he wanted a pagan Philistine. His parents had already tried to reason with him, saying, “Isn’t there even one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry? Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?” (Judges 14:3, NLT).

But Samson ignored his parents’ pleas. Scripture records that: “Some time later Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek. The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, ‘Entice Samson to tell you what makes him so strong and how he can be overpowered and tied up securely. Then each of us will give you 1,100 pieces of silver’” (Judges 16:4-5, NLT).

Hebrews 11:25 speaks of “…enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.” That’s exactly what Samson did – until one day Delilah succeeded in prying his secret from him: “‘My hair has never been cut,’ he confessed, ‘for I was dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me…’” (Judges 16:17).

Samson fell asleep, foolishly trusting Delilah, who had someone come in and cut off some of his hair. If you read the rest of Judges 16, you see that Samson was blinded literally and spiritually and his life came to a tragic end.

There’s a warning here for all of us. Sin is attractive. Sin is exciting. And sin can be downright fun – “…for a season…” (Hebrews 11:25, KJV). But ask someone with a sexually transmitted disease or battling to kick drugs if it was worth it. The price of sin is always far greater than the pleasure.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


The Israelites were still under the oppressing hand of the Philistines. During this time, there lived a man named Manoah of the tribe of Dan whose wife hadn’t been able to have a child. One day, “The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, ‘Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son’” (Judges 13:3, NLT).

This child was the famous strongman Samson. His parents were instructed to raise him from birth as a Nazirite, a person who made specific vows to the Lord – in Samson’s case, he was never to drink alcohol or eat the fruit of the grapevine and he wasn’t to cut his hair. As we’ll see in tomorrow’s passage, breaking his vow to the Lord cost Samson dearly.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:33-37 (NASB): “…you have heard that the ancients were told, 'you shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.’”

As a believer, you are constantly being scrutinized by those who want to see what, if anything, makes you different from “the average Joe.” Whether it’s a simple commitment – “I’ll bring the snacks for our break time tomorrow” – or a big one – “…’til death do us part” – keep it. Be a believer who shines Jesus in a positive light daily.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


For the umpteenth time the Israelites were living in disobedience to God and found themselves oppressed by the Philistines and Ammonites:

“The Israelites were in great distress. Finally, they cried out to the Lord for help, saying, ‘We have sinned against You because we have abandoned You as our God and have served the images of Baal.’ The Lord replied, ‘Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to Me for help, and I rescued you. Yet you have abandoned Me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!’” (Judges 10:9b-14, NLT).

So much of man’s misery is self-made. Ed, the married man who has a fling with his co-worker Tara. Julie, the married woman who has an affair with Andy, her best friend’s husband. Carmen, who spends her aging parents’ money she’s been entrusted to manage for their care.

In every case, the one person’s sin affects many. Ed’s marriage ends and his wife and children are devastated. Tara becomes known as an easy mark for every man in the office. Julie’s husband will struggle for years to ever trust her again. Ditto for Andy’s wife. And Carmen’s parents find themselves unable to afford the assisted living they’d so carefully prepared to pay for.

God is merciful, but He won’t undo the results of our sins. He will, however, forgive us. Look at what happened with the Israelites:

“But the Israelites pleaded with the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.’ Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And He was grieved by their misery” (Judges 10:15-16).

The Lord doesn’t delight in our misery – He grieves over it. His desire is for His people to live in such a way that we are blessings to Him and to each other.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Then the Israelites said to Gideon, ‘Be our ruler! You and your son and your grandson will be our rulers, for you have rescued us from Midian.’ But Gideon replied, ‘I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you!’” (Judges 8:22-23, NLT).

Gideon’s victory over the enemies of Israel with only 300 fighting men at his side was an impressive one. According to Judges 8:10, they’d been pitted against an army of 135,000! But Gideon knew who had given him the victory – the Lord God Jehovah.

Gideon’s mistake came after the battles had ended. When he refused to be made king, he asked that each man give him a gold earring from the spoils of their enemies – see Judges 8:24-26. Gideon made an ephod, a priestly vestment, out of all this gold; and in no time at all the Israelites began worshiping the ephod! Once again, the people forgot the God who’d given them the victory.

But let’s not lambaste the Israelites until we examine our own doorsteps. Man has always had a desire to worship “stuff.” God is the one who gives us the air we breathe; the strength and ability to think and work; and yet how often do we find ourselves adoring our new car or new house or new jewelry or new something else instead of the One who made all these things possible?

Be careful to worship the Creator and not the created.


NOTE: If you want to catch up on any Bible studies you’ve missed, you can see them all here:

Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


A divine messenger appeared to Gideon as he was going about a normal task, threshing wheat, and called him to lead the people of Israel to victory against their oppressors:

“‘Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!’ ‘But Lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!’ The Lord said to him, ‘I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man’” (Judges 6:14-16, NLT).

Gideon’s story isn’t one of a brave warrior. Gideon was afraid and he even asked the Lord repeatedly for signs of assurance that He would be with him. And merciful God that He is, God assured Gideon at every turn.

And the story just gets better and better. Gideon mustered 32,000 men to fight against the Midianites, but the Lord told him, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to Me that they saved themselves by their own strength” (Judges 7:2, NLT).

In obedience to and in growing confidence in the One who called him, Gideon heeded the Lord’s instructions and trimmed his troops to only 300 men.

Maybe you think you’re too insignificant to accomplish much. Maybe you think you need more backers to do whatever you’re considering. Brother or sister, if the Lord is on your side, you’ve got all the help and backing you need. Trust in Him completely.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. They forgot about the Lord their God, and they served the images of Baal and the Asherah poles. Then the Lord burned with anger against Israel, and he turned them over to King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram-naharaim. And the Israelites served Cushan-rishathaim for eight years” (Judges 3:7-9, NLT).

How could the Israelites who had seen so many powerful acts of the Lord turn away from Him and serve false gods? The same way many professing Christians serve money, materialism, and other false gods today. By focusing on themselves rather than Him.

If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you belong to the mighty loving Lord of heaven and earth. Loving, yes; but willing to discipline. Even though we live in the wonderful day of grace, the Lord warns us through His Word and through checks in believers’ spirits as His indwelling Holy Spirit reinforces those warnings, urging us away from sin and its consequences.

Sin carries a terrible price. Jesus Christ paid the sin-debt for every person who believes on His Name; He became the door into the Promised Land of heavenly eternity. And while He forgives and forgets the sins we repent of, our sins still set in motion earthly consequences that affect not only ourselves, but those around us. No believer ever “gets away” with sin and no sin affects only the sinner.

If you’re harboring a “pet” sin, now’s the time to repent of it and get rid of it.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…” (Acts 3:19, NIV).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110. They buried him in the land he had been allocated, at Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:8-10, NLT).

My paternal great-grandfather was a circuit-riding minister. My paternal grandfather was an active member of his church’s congregation, using his carpentry skills to build pulpits and pews and serving in a number of leadership roles; my grandmother served alongside him. Likewise my daddy. He and my mother sang, taught, served, and lived out lives that showed me as much as they told me about what they believed. One generation set an example that led the next generation into lives of faith and service.

What kind of example are you setting today with your involvement in church? I have a dear friend who has been telling me for over 20 years that she and her husband are “going to get started in church.” Today they have a married son who, based on conversations I’ve personally had with him, knows next to nothing about who Jesus is and hasn’t been in church a handful of times in his lifetime.

One generation, folks. That’s all it takes. One generation can put a family on the pathway to heaven or steer a course straight for hell. There’s no middle ground. If church, if Jesus, is a “little bit” important to you, He’ll be a little less important to the next generation of your family. Serving Jesus must be first priority in your life if you’re to lead the next generation to “acknowledge the Lord.”


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110. They buried him in the land he had been allocated, at Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:8-10, NLT).

My paternal great-grandfather was a circuit-riding minister. My paternal grandfather was an active member of his church’s congregation, using his carpentry skills to build pulpits and pews and serving in a number of leadership roles; my grandmother served alongside him. Likewise my daddy. He and my mother sang, taught, served, and lived out lives that showed me as much as they told me about what they believed. One generation set an example that led the next generation into lives of faith and service.

What kind of example are you setting today with your involvement in church? I have a dear friend who has been telling me for over 20 years that she and her husband are “going to get started in church.” Today they have a married son who, based on conversations I’ve personally had with him, knows next to nothing about who Jesus is and hasn’t been in church a handful of times in his lifetime.

One generation, folks. That’s all it takes. One generation can put a family on the pathway to heaven or steer a course straight for hell. There’s no middle ground. If church, if Jesus, is a “little bit” important to you, it’ll be a little less important to the next generation of your family. Serving Jesus must be first priority in your life if you’re to lead the next generation to “acknowledge the Lord.”


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Soon I will die, going the way of everything on earth. Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!” (Joshua 23:14, NLT).

Joshua wanted to leave his people with a reminder of God’s faithfulness. In spite of what had often seemed insurmountable odds or difficulties – including the Israelites’ self-made ones – the Lord had kept His word and brought them to the Promised Land.

However, even this new land wasn’t problem-free. No earthly place is. Sometimes we get discouraged and we turn our eyes onto our troubles instead of The Promise. We wrestle with understanding why there are so many difficulties in this life even when we’re trying to live according to God’s Word.

Beloved, don’t be discouraged! The apostle Paul reminds us again of God’s faithfulness:

“…He always does just what He says, and He is the one who invited you into this wonderful friendship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (I Corinthians 1:9b).

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27, NKJV).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Then Joshua asked them, ‘How long are you going to wait before taking possession of the remaining land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given to you?’” (Joshua 18:3, NLT).

I once read that author John Grisham’s first book, A Time to Kill, was rejected 47 times before he found someone willing to publish it. Making it in the writing world takes persistence. Matter of fact, making it in this world, period, takes persistence.

We can’t always blame God for the delays on things we want or hope for. I’m waiting on the day when my son and daughter-in-law know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and my husband Larry and I are allowed to meet our precious granddaughters.

Is God the holdup? No way. Every time Larry and I – or the many friends and family members who are also praying – lift up a prayer for our prodigals, His Holy Spirit moves, urging them to come to Him. But God is a Gentleman. He never forces anyone to turn to Him or trust in Him. He gives us the freedom to choose. Likewise, He gives us the freedom to take the actions necessary to accomplish our goals in life – and hopefully, those are goals in accordance with His will and purpose.

If you’re waiting on something to happen, examine your heart and life and prayerfully seek God’s guidance. Is there something you can do to move this process along? Is this something you should do or resist doing? Is this a time to wait or act? Ask your Heavenly Father and He’ll show you the right answer for your situation.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


The Lord gave the Israelites the Promised Land, but in order to receive it, they had to fulfill their part of the covenant. They had to cross the Jordan and possess it and they had to conquer the peoples who already inhabited the land. And so they did:

“When Joshua was an old man, the Lord said to him, ‘You are growing old, and much land remains to be conquered’” (Joshua 13:1, NLT).

Joshua spent his entire life fighting to keep sin out of the lives of his people. And even as his life drew to a close, the Lord reminded him that the battle wasn’t over.

Folks, sin is never stagnant – it’s either DEFEATED or DEFEATING. Which is it in your life?

As long as you’re living on this earth, there will never come a time when you “arrive” spiritually – sin-free. You’ll always need to be battle-ready, actively seeking to remove any sin that comes into your life and steering clear of any sin that you would otherwise wade into.

Then when your life comes to a close, your greatest accomplishment will be to have left behind an example that taught your children and grandchildren to be ready for battle.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


The Lord gave the Israelites the Promised Land, but in order to receive it, they had to fulfill their part of the covenant. They had to cross the Jordan and possess it and they had to conquer the peoples who already inhabited the land. And so they did:

“[Joshua and the army of Israel] completely destroyed everyone in the land, leaving no survivors, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. So Joshua conquered the entire region – the hill country, the entire Negev, the whole area around the town of Goshen, the western foothills, the Jordan Valley, the mountains of Israel, and the Galilean foothills. The Israelite territory now extended all the way from Mount Halak, which leads up to Seir in the south, as far north as Baal-gad at the foot of Mount Hermon in the valley of Lebanon. Joshua killed all the kings of those territories, waging war for a long time to accomplish this” (Joshua 10:40b; 11:16-18, NLT).

Old Testament history, remember, is pre-grace and sometimes bloody, gruesome, and difficult to understand. Boiling this down far more simplistically than it really is, the gist is that the vast majority of earth’s inhabitants had become evil and disobedient and turned to false gods. Rather than destroying the entire population of the planet as He had come close to doing in Noah’s day – see Genesis 7 – God chose for Himself one people, the people of Israel, to spread His Name and Truth. The other peoples and the disobedient Israelites – those who followed false gods – were to be totally eliminated. As brutal as it seems, Joshua obediently wiped out the people of every city the Israelites conquered.

Sin, like cancer, can’t be destroyed if it’s only partially removed. The people of the cities Joshua conquered worshiped idols and practiced some really sick “religions,” including some that required children to be sacrificed. The Lord didn’t want His people picking up any of these people’s evil ways, so He instructed Joshua to destroy them.

God knows we’re all going to mess up, but He still doesn’t want us to allow any habitual sin to remain in our lives. Getting rid of it, however, takes time. Yes, there are those rare few whom the Lord delivers from addiction the moment He saves them, but most believers have to fight a daily and even moment-by-moment battle to keep sin knocked in the head. Hang tough, claim your victory in Jesus, and remember that even for Joshua and the entire army of Israel, “it took a long time to accomplish this.”


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


The Israelites had come to the walled and fortified city of Jericho. With a vast army at his command, how was Joshua to conquer it? One way – by obeying the Lord’s instructions:

“I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town” (Joshua 6:2-5, NLT).

Can you imagine how creeped out the people of Jericho had to have been, watching this army and waiting for the attack that never came? What happened? The Israelites did exactly as the Lord told them and, because of their obedience, the Lord did precisely what He’d said He would. Joshua 6:20 records that: “When the people [of Israel] heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it.”

You can’t outsmart God. If (haven’t we seen that word before recently?) you’ll only submit your will to His, He’ll lead you to victory, whatever the battle. Don’t exhaust yourself futilely trying to win your way; listen to the Lord’s instructions and obey Him.

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8, NASB).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


We saw at the end of the book of Deuteronomy that Moses died and, in one of the most astounding passages in the Bible, “the Lord buried him” (Deuteronomy 34:6). Joshua, the faithful spy who, along with Caleb, brought back the only favorable reports from the Promised Land, had been training at Moses’ and Aaron’s side, and now takes over leading the people of Israel.

The Lord speaks to Joshua, saying: “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is My command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:6-9, NLT).

Repetition is one of the strongest means of reinforcing a statement. In this passage, the Lord repeatedly tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous,” even “very courageous.” And notice that, in case Joshua still didn’t get it, the third time around the Lord emphatically states: “This is My command!”

God’s command to Joshua stands true for every believer. Each of us is a leader. Each of us has other people watching us, looking up to us and following our examples. If (there’s that little word again) we “Study this Book of Instruction continually,” we’ll succeed in leading many others to faith in Jesus. Don’t wimp out on your witness in your workplace, school, home, church, or social setting – “Be strong and courageous!”


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“If you make the Lord your refuge,
 if you make the Most High your shelter,
 no evil will conquer you;

 The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love Me.
 I will protect those who trust in My name.
 When they call on Me, I will answer;
 I will be with them in trouble”
(Psalm 91:9-10a; 14-15a, NLT).

Three things I’d like us to focus on from today’s passage:

That little word
“if.” It just keeps popping up, doesn’t it? “If” makes the statement conditional: “IF you make the Lord your refuge, IF you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you.” Want the strength to resist evil? Then obey the word: “make the Lord your refuge” and “make the Most High your shelter.”

“No evil will conquer you.”
Note that nothing in this passage says that evil won’t tempt you – it will. But IF you “make the Lord your refuge,” evil cannot and will not win in your life. As First Corinthians 10:13 puts it: “…remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it” (NLT).

“I will be with them in trouble.”
If we weren’t going to sometimes find ourselves “in trouble,” there’d be no reason for the Lord to promise to be with us in it. Here again, despite what the “name-it-and-claim-it” preachers would have you to believe, God doesn’t promise you smooth sailing – He promises to go with you through the storms.

“…for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23b).

TODAY’S THROUGH-THE-BIBLE PASSAGE: Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91

Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20a, NLT).

You know, there’s living and there’s surviving. According to a 2007 MSNBC article, the majority of Americans are simply surviving. They spend their lives at jobs they despise: 61 percent of workers under age 25 fall into the job-hating category, along with 55 percent of workers ages 45 to 54.

Work isn’t a curse; it’s a privilege. And God has created each and every person with special gifts, talents, and abilities which can be used to earn a living in a field that is both satisfying and rewarding.

If you want to know the right pathway for your life, first you have to know Jesus. And if you know Jesus, you’ll realize He isn’t hiding or complicating His will for your life. What has He given you a passion to do? What has He given you the ability to do? Look for a place where you can put that passion and ability to work. And as you search, pray this scripture:

“Show me the path where I should walk, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow” (Psalm 25:4, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


More than America needs health care reform or debt reduction or anything else, we need to turn back to faithfully serving the Lord Jesus. And that turning, my friends, begins with YOU and ME.

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all His commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God:

Your towns and your fields will be blessed.
Your children and your crops will be blessed.
The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed.
Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.

The Lord will conquer your enemies when they attack you. They will attack you from one direction, but they will scatter from you in seven!

The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain. The Lord your God will bless you in the land He is giving you.

If you obey the commands of the Lord your God and walk in His ways, the Lord will establish you as His holy people as He swore He would do. Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the Lord, and they will stand in awe of you” (Deuteronomy 28:1-10, NLT).


Copyright 2017

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Never take advantage of poor and destitute laborers, whether they are fellow Israelites or foreigners living in your towns. You must pay them their wages each day before sunset because they are poor and are counting on it. If you don’t, they might cry out to the Lord against you, and it would be counted against you as sin” (Deuteronomy 24:14-15, NLT).

Everyone doesn’t have a college education. Everyone doesn’t have a high school education. Matter of fact, according to a 2003 survey done by the U.S. Department of Education, more than 1 in every 8 American adults has very poor literacy skills (reading and writing ability). The majority of these 32 million adults are fortunate to find any type of work and, in most cases, perform jobs that pay very little and often include hard manual labor.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:12a: “Do for others what you would like them to do for you.” If you are financially blessed enough to afford to hire workers to help with projects around your home or office, or if you’re in a position of authority within a business or other organization, remember the words of Jesus and pay a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility. Take it back to its owner. If its owner does not live nearby or you don’t know who the owner is, take it to your place and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then you must return it. Do the same if you find your neighbor’s donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses. Don’t ignore your responsibility” (Deuteronomy 22:1-2, NLT).

Most of us probably don’t have a neighbor who owns “an ox or sheep or goat,” but we do have neighbors. And this passage hammers home one truth about them: “Don’t ignore your responsibility.” We have a God-commanded responsibility to help our neighbors.

Nowhere in the Bible do you hear the theme song, “It’s not my problem.” Instead, you read the words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How important is it to “love your neighbor as yourself”? Critical, I’d say; especially when you consider that you’ll find this stated in at least nine passages: Lev. 19:18; Matt. 19:19; Matt. 22:39; Mk. 12:31; Mk. 12:33; Lk. 10:27; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; and James 2:8.

Lest we forget who our neighbors are, Jesus answered that question in the Parable of the Good Samaritan – see Luke 10:30-37. And look at today’s Deuteronomy passage: “If its owner doesn’t live nearby…” Pretty much sums up the fact that neighbors aren’t just the people close around you.

“‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ [Jesus asked.] The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke 10:36-37, NIV).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“…do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:10b-12a, NLT).

Horoscopes, Ouija boards, psychics. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:9b, “…there is nothing new under the sun” (NKJV). The gadgets and gimmicks of this so-called “New Age” have been around for centuries; and they’re just as wrong today as they were in Moses’ day.

Note the word “witchcraft” in today’s passage. We need to take a look at what the prophet Samuel had to say to King Saul who had just finished partially obeying a specific command of the Lord – see First Samuel 15: “For rebellion [is as] the sin of witchcraft…” (First Samuel 15:23a, NKJV).

Folks, partial obedience is disobedience. And disobedience is sin. And sin is plain ol’ rebellion against your Creator. If there’s any area of your life you haven’t fully submitted to the Lord Jesus, repent; then surrender everything to His Lordship.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land He is giving you as a special possession. You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. The Lord your God will bless you as He has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you” (Deuteronomy 15:4-6, NLT).

“There should be no poor among you…” Dependent on what survey you read, 13 to 17 percent of Americans live below what the U.S. Government consider the "poverty threshold."

But it’s not just individual Americans in financial straits – it’s also corporations and even our federal government. We’ve had almost a full decade to tack on more debt since this figure came out, but as of 2007, U.S. debt in the hands of foreign governments was 25 percent, which is double what that figure was in 1988. As of 2009, the U.S. owed China $772 billion.

The country that wants to bail everybody else out is enormously in debt to other countries! What has happened? We’re no longer a nation “under God” – that is, under His leadership. If we want the favor of God on America, we’ve got to stop ignoring the needs of others around us and, above all, enthrone Christ as the Ruler of our hearts and our nation.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Don’t let your heart be deceived so that you turn away from the Lord and serve and worship other gods” (Deuteronomy 11:16b, NLT).

While you may not worship “Mother Nature” or any other pagan deity, it’s still a good idea to examine your values and see if some “other god” has crept in and stolen the Lord’s place in your priorities. Such as? The god of “stuff.” People today are obsessed with having stuff, stuff, and more stuff. And if we’re not careful, the pursuit of material wealth can easily exceed our pursuit of Christ.

What do you spend the most time on: thinking about how you can reach a lost family member or friend, or thinking about how you can get that new boat, car, bike, house or other temporary “treasure?”

Real life isn’t about loving stuff – it’s about loving people. Love others enough to tell them about Jesus.

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:20, NIV).


Copyright 2017

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey His commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful!” (Deuteronomy 8:11b-13, NLT).

America may have been going through some tough economic times, but compared to most any other country you want to shake a stick at, we’ve no idea what real hardship is. In this girl’s humble opinion, America's biggest problem is that we have forgotten. We’ve forgotten to put Jesus Christ first. We’ve forgotten how truly blessed we are. We’ve forgotten that material possessions aren’t what this life is to be about. In short, we’ve forgotten pretty much everything that Moses warned the Israelites not to forgot if they wanted the favor of God to remain with them.

If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, He’s not just your God in the good times. He’s your God in the toughest of times, and all the times in between.

Stop right now and count your blessings. And tell your Heavenly Father “thank You” for all His provision.


Copyright 2017

Judy Woodward Bates 


“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NLT).

Do you have a quiet time of your own, a time when you get alone with your Bible and read and pray? How about your kids or grandkids? Do you encourage them to have a quiet time? And what about your spouse? If you’re married, do you and your spouse read the Bible and pray together? Do you and your kids or grandkids read the Bible and pray together? How about the whole family?

Let’s use our imaginations for a moment, shall we? You’ve just read in the paper that a farmer in a nearby county has discovered a spring on his property that is a real fountain of youth. One application of this water and your skin is as smooth as a baby’s. And even more amazing, the farmer refuses to accept any payment from those who come to his spring. How quickly would you make a beeline over there? Wide open, I’d bet. Why? Because there’s something amazing there and it’s free for the taking. How quick would you be to tell someone else about it? As fast as your fingers can text or speed dial!

And yet look at the Living Water Jesus offers. Talk about amazing and free – He’s more than a wrinkle remover – He removes the sin that would separate you from Him for eternity! If He’s all that big a deal; if He’s the Real Deal, then tell somebody. Starting with your family. And then your friends. And everyone you can. While there’s still time.


Copyright 2017

Judy Woodward Bates 


“So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other. If you obey all the decrees and commands I am giving you today, all will be well with you and your children. I am giving you these instructions so you will enjoy a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you for all time” (Deuteronomy 3:39-40, NLT).

My life verse is Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (KJV). Nowhere in the Bible is there a secondary verse that says, “But seek ye second… and most of these things…” There’s only one way to live life rightly, and that’s God’s way.

So many of life’s difficulties are self-made through disobedience. Why add unnecessary troubles to the ones the Bible already tells you are going to be a part of life on earth? Jesus Himself warned: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33, NIV).

Thank God that’s not the end of that verse, though. Jesus also said: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Believer, whatever you’re going through, there truly is victory in Jesus.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


The book of Deuteronomy opens while the people of Israel are still on the east side of the Jordan. Moses reminds the people of God’s instructions and all they’ve been through from rebellion to victory. And he also reminds them of the Lord’s constant presence:

“…you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now He has brought you to this place” (Deuteronomy 1:31, NLT).

Where do you find yourself today? It wasn’t the Lord’s perfect will that had the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty long years – it was their own disobedience, their rebellion against Him. God had a perfect plan for them, but they rejected His way for their own way.

God has a perfect plan for you. And the day you choose to follow His leadership is the day you get on that right pathway. If you’re already listening and following, know that He truly “…has brought you to this place” wherever you find yourself today. And be it a valley or a mountaintop, He’s with you and will bless you as you trust Him to guide you.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“You must not defile the land where you live, for I live there Myself. I am the Lord, who lives among the people of Israel” (Numbers 35:34, NLT).

You’ve probably heard the old hymn that says about Jesus: “You ask me how I know He lives; He lives within my heart.” Do you honestly believe that? If you do, then the verse printed above from today’s passage applies to you. And it applies to every person who claims Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Christians are to live as though Jesus is right there in the room, in the car, or on the sidewalk with us. Because, guess what? He is.

“But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (I Peter 1:15-16, NIV, Peter quoting from Leviticus 11:44).

To be holy is to be different, set apart. Don’t try to fit into the world; stand out and stand up for Jesus.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


The tribes of Gad and Reuben, along with half the tribe of Manasseh (one of the two sons of Joseph whose families were counted along with Joseph’s brothers as tribes of Israel), received land on the east side of the Jordan. The remaining nine and a half tribes (remember, the Levites weren’t allotted their own property) were to receive property on the east side. So the Lord gave Moses gave these instructions:

“Eleazar the priest and Joshua son of Nun are the men designated to divide the grants of land among the people. Enlist one leader from each tribe to help them with the task. These are the tribes and the names of the leaders:

Judah – Caleb son of Jephunneh
Simeon – Shemuel son of Ammihud
Benjamin – Elidad son of Kislon
Dan – Bukki son of Jogli
Manasseh son of Joseph – Hanniel son of Ephod
Ephraim son of Joseph – Kemuel son of Shiphtan
Zebulun – Elizaphan son of Parnach
Issachar – Paltiel son of Azzan
Asher – Ahihud son of Shelomi
Naphtali – Pedahel son of Ammihud

These are the men the Lord has appointed to divide the grants of land in Canaan among the Israelites” (Numbers 34:17-29, NLT).

Imagine the honor and responsibility of being one of these leaders! And yet, when you stop and think about it, everyone is a leader. YOU have people looking up to, watching, and emulating what is seen in YOU. I pray that your example is pointing your watchers to Jesus.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


The tribes of Gad and Reuben were rich with livestock and, as they reached the banks of the Jordan, asked Moses if, rather than crossing over and taking land on the other side of the Jordan, they could have land where they were at present – the east side of the Jordan. Moses told them that it wasn’t fair for them to take land that had already been conquered when the rest of the Israelites had to do more fighting to take the land on the west side of the Jordan. So the men of Gad and Reuben committed to cross over and fight alongside all the other Israelites even though their own two tribes would settle on the east side.

“Then Moses said, ‘If you keep your word and arm yourselves for the Lord’s battles, and if your troops cross the Jordan and keep fighting until the Lord has driven out His enemies, then you may return when the Lord has conquered the land. You will have fulfilled your duty to the Lord and to the rest of the people of Israel. And the land on the east side of the Jordan will be your property from the Lord. But if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out’” (Numbers 32:20-23, NLT).

When we think of “sin,” all too often we think of things we’ve done that we shouldn’t have. But what about things we SHOULD have done, but didn’t? James 4:17 holds the answer: Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”

The men of Gad and Reuben kept their word and they and their families were blessed. We will never know this side of heaven how many blessings we have, as individuals, as families, and as churches, missed out on because of failing to keep our commitments. Want to be blessed? Keep your word.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“A man who makes a vow to the Lord or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do” (Numbers 30:2, NLT).

What exactly constitutes a vow? According to Webster’s, it’s a solemn promise or assertion; specifically: one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition. To put it simplistically, making a vow is keeping your word.

No Christian should ever break a promise, a commitment, unless there is absolutely no way he or she can prevent doing so. When a believer promises to help coach a ball team, that guy or gal should be the most encouraging, enthusiastic, and faithful coach that team has ever seen. When a believer promises to come into work early or stay late to catch things up, he or she should be there hammering away at the task, regardless of whether or not there’s anyone else at the office to see the job being done.

You are a member of the body of Christ. You represent Him. And He hears every promise you make – and the Living Word expects you to be a man – or woman – of your word.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“One day a petition was presented by the daughters of Zelophehad… These women stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the tribal leaders, and the entire community at the entrance of the Tabernacle, ‘Our father died in the wilderness,” they said. ‘…But he had no sons. Why should the name of our father disappear from his clan just because he had no sons? Give us property along with the rest of our relatives.’ So Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord replied to Moses, ‘The claim of the daughters of Zelophehad is legitimate. You must give them a grant of land along with their father’s relatives. Assign them the property that would have been given to their father. And give the following instructions to the people of Israel: If a man dies and has no son, then give his inheritance to his daughters” (Numbers 27:1-8, NLT).

It was never the Lord’s intention for a woman to be considered a lesser person than a man. As Peter declared in Acts 10:34, “God shows no favoritism” (NIV). Or as Paul put it in Colossians 3:28 (NLT): “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Male, female, rich, poor, black, white; God loves each of us individually and equally.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“God is not a man, so He does not lie.
 He is not human, so He does not change his mind.
 Has He ever spoken and failed to act?
 Has He ever promised and not carried it through?”

(Numbers 23:19, NLT)

Balak thought he was sending Balaam to curse the Israelites, but in God’s plan Balaam was sent to bless the Israelites; and he did so three times, one portion of which is shown above. Let’s take these four simple statements apart and look at each one of them individually:

(1) “God is not a man, so He does not lie.” Jesus identified Himself as “the Truth” (John 14:6). Every word of the Bible is Truth, and “…all God’s promises are ‘Yes’ in [Christ]” (II Corinthians 1:20, ISV). If the Word of God says it, it’s so.

(2) “He is not human, so He does not change his mind.” Jesus came as fully God and fully man, not as simply man. Maybe this second statement would be better understood if it was worded as: His mind doesn’t change. It’s not that God never relents. It’s that He’s consistently who He is. Faithful. True. Just. And merciful. If you read Isaiah 38, you see King Hezekiah at the point of death, having been told by the Lord to “Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover” (Isaiah 38:1, NIV). And yet after Hezekiah prayed and wept before the Lord, He sent Isaiah to tell him, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life” (Isaiah 38:4b).

(3) “Has He ever spoken and failed to act?” Again, this speaks of God’s consistent nature. God told Jonah that He was going to destroy the people of Nineveh. And He would have done exactly that. But when they listened to Jonah’s preaching and heeded his warnings of impending judgment, the Lord relented and spared them – see Jonah 3.

(4) “Has He ever promised and not carried it through?” Jesus told Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Stephen, even as he was drawing his last breath, “…gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Acts 7:55, NLT). Stephen left this earth, immediately experiencing eternal life; and the Bible records for us his very first glimpse of heaven.

I wish I could develop this further, but in the interest of keeping these dailies brief, let me just say this: Nothing changes God. Prayer changes the PRAY-ER. God will never behave in any way contrary to who He is. It’s our attitudes and actions that either enable Him to bless or force Him to discipline.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


When the Israelites crossed into Moab, Balak the king, seeing how vast their numbers were and having heard of their victory over the Amorites, sent a message to Balaam requesting that he “come and curse” the Israelites (Numbers 22:6, NLT). Eventually Balaam agreed to go with the men, but en route, his donkey three times saw an angel of the Lord and refused to move forward on the roadway – see Numbers 22:23-26. Finally, the Lord opened its mouth and gave it the ability to speak!

“‘What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?’ [the donkey] asked Balaam. ‘…I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life… Have I ever done anything like this before?’ ‘No,’ Balaam admitted. Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him” (Numbers 22:28, 30-31).

There are an unlimited number of great lessons from today’s passage, but what I’d like to focus on is the donkey. Did the Lord need a donkey to speak for Him? Does the Lord need ANYONE or ANYTHING to speak for Him? The answer, of course, is a resounding NO!

And yet He chooses to speak through His creation. In Psalm 19:1, David rejoiced, saying, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (NIV). Mankind is also His creation. When Ananias told the Lord that he didn’t want to go and minister to Paul (also called Saul), the bloody persecutor of the followers of The Way, God told him, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument” (Acts 9:15a).

In Romans 9:20b-21a, Paul wrote: Can an object that was made say to its maker, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ A potter has the right to do whatever he wants with his clay.”

God can and will do what He wants, when He wants, with and/or to whomever or whatever He chooses. He doesn’t need our help in any way, and yet He loves us enough to include us in His great plan of salvation and to use us to further His Kingdom by letting others know how much He loves them. Please don’t neglect this tremendous privilege and responsibility.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


The Israelites had encamped at Kadesh in the desert of Zin and Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, had died there. There was no water in the area and the people turned on Moses and Aaron and, as usual, wished themselves back in Egypt where they now recalled the plentiful food and water but forgot the severely harsh treatment they’d received as slaves of the Egyptians. The Lord, as always, heard their complaints and spoke to Moses, saying:

“‘You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water.’ Then [Moses] and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. ‘Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’ Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust Me enough to demonstrate My holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!’” (Numbers 20:8a, 10-11a, 12, NLT).

The Lord had instructed Moses to take the staff with him and Aaron, but to merely “…speak to the rock…,” not strike it. And yet Moses, with Aaron alongside him, disobeyed the Lord’s instructions and struck it twice, saying of himself and Aaron, “Must WE bring you water from this rock?”

God’s word is to be obeyed, not partially obeyed; nor is it to be distorted or ignored. And no one – not even the person through whom the Lord chooses to work – should ever take credit for God’s miraculous actions and power. Neither Moses nor Aaron dropped dead on the spot when they did, but both paid the price of never entering the Promised Land because of their disobedience – see Numbers 20:28 and Deuteronomy 34:5.

God is good. God is patient. But God is also Righteous. No one, not even anointed leaders like Moses and Aaron “get away” with sin. Nor do we.

“…be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“One day Korah son of Izhar, a descendant of Kohath son of Levi, conspired with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, from the tribe of Reuben. They incited a rebellion against Moses, along with 250 other leaders of the community, all prominent members of the assembly. They united against Moses and Aaron and said, ‘You have gone too far! The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the Lord, and He is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of the Lord’s people?’” (Numbers 16:1-3, NLT).

Moses hadn’t called himself into the position of leadership over God’s people – the Lord had appointed him. Criticism of and jealousy for Moses’ authority led to one of the most horrifying judgments you’ll find in the Bible. I hope you’ll take the time to read the entire through-the-Bible passage for today.

We need to be very careful about criticizing those whom God either places in authority or even allows within His permissive will to have positions of authority. If you don’t like the way your company, your family, or your country is run, don’t criticize the leaders. Pray for them.

“Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men” (I Peter 2:13a, NIV).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Seventy years are given to us!
 Some even live to eighty.
 But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;
 soon they disappear, and we fly away.
Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
so that we may grow in wisdom”
(Psalm 90:10, 12, NLT).

Moses, with the weight of the entire people of Israel on his shoulders, penned the words of Psalm 90. The people had more fear of the enemy than confidence in the Lord, and the Lord was furious. Moses pled with the Lord and He relented of destroying the people. But they paid a great price for their lack of faith. The Lord pronounced His sentence:

“…as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen My glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested Me by refusing to listen to My voice. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated Me with contempt will ever see it” (Numbers 14:21-23).

Only Caleb and Joshua, the two explorers who had believed God would give them the victory over anything that stood in the way of their taking possession of the Promised Land, would ever see their faith become reality.

Caleb and Joshua spoke in faith that they WOULD possess the Promised Land, and they did. The rest of the people cried out, “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” (Numbers 14:2). Seems to me both groups got what they were expecting.

Words are powerful. Are you speaking negatives or positives?


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Whenever the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel would break camp and follow it. And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel would set up camp” (Numbers 13:17, NLT).

How many times have you heard someone say, “God’s timing is always perfect?” It’s true, you know. Sometimes we wait for things and we’re so impatient and don’t understand why it doesn’t happen right now! Sometimes things happen that throw us completely for a loop and we can’t understand why they were allowed to happen at all. Yet God is working in and through it all. What we have to do is trust Him.

There are three critical things to do while we wait: (1) Trust God; (2) refuse to take matters into our own hands rather than wait on a clear word from the Lord; and (3) pray.

What are you waiting for? What are you trusting Him for? What are you praying for?

“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time” (I Peter 5:6, NIV).

From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’” (John 6:66-68a).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates 


“Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days… Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning… Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out… At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order…” (Numbers 9:17, 18b, 20a, 21a, 22a, 23a, NIV).

When the Lord wanted the Israelites to stay put, the cloud of His presence remained over the tabernacle. When the cloud lifted from the tabernacle, this signified it was time to move forward. Sometimes the people got no more than an overnight rest and then they were back on the road. On other occasions, “the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year.” And however long the cloud remained, so did the Israelites. They “would remain in camp and not set out.”

How does this relate to us today? Obedience and timing. “At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order.” And so must we. When we lag behind or jump ahead of God’s guidance, we find ourselves unhappy. We’re not at peace. And sometimes, we’re downright miserable. Why?

Because the only true happiness, peace, and fulfillment in this life comes from being centered in the will of God, and that means not only following His leading, but obeying His timing.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Whenever Moses went into the Tabernacle to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the Ark’s cover – the place of atonement – that rests on the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord spoke to him from there” (Numbers 7:89, NLT).

Where did Moses first meet God? While tending his father-in-law’s sheep. Read Exodus 3:4: “When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ ‘Here I am!’ Moses replied.”

What about Samuel? First Samuel 3: “…the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon. One night… Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God. Suddenly the Lord called out, ‘Samuel!’” (from verses 1-4).

And Paul (or Saul – see Acts 13:9)? He was on the road to Damascus, intending to arrest anyone he could find who was following “The Way.” Suddenly a light blinded him and brought him to his knees. Paul said: “I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene...’” (Acts 22:7-8b).

Whether you’re young like Samuel; old like Moses (see Acts 7:23-30); or in the prime of your life like Paul, God can speak to you today anytime, anywhere. No, He may not choose to do so in an audible voice and He may not choose to accompany His presence with a burning bush or blinding light; but He is just as real and reachable today. And His Holy Spirit is constantly speaking, encouraging the hearts of believers and urging the lost to come to Jesus.

Find a quiet place and listen.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:

 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.’

‘So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them’”
(Numbers 6:22-27, NKJV).

Every moment of every day we have the opportunity to choose whether we spread blessing or cursing, favor or disfavor. Child psychologists say that for every negative or criticism you speak to your child, you should speak at least 10 positives. I’d say that’s good advice about speaking to anyone anytime.

Think before you speak (or text or post) and consciously choose words that are positive and uplifting.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


We’re seeing a consistent theme throughout our passages: obedience brings blessing; disobedience removes God’s favor. Look at these verses from today’s passage:

“‘Record the names of the members of the tribe of Levi…’ So Moses listed them, just as the Lord had commanded” (Numbers 3:15a, 16, NLT).

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now count all the firstborn sons in Israel… So Moses counted the firstborn sons of the people of Israel, just as the Lord had commanded” (Numbers 3:40a, 42).

 “And Moses gave the silver for the redemption to Aaron and his sons, just as the Lord had commanded” (Numbers 3:51).

“…the total number came to 2,750. So this was the total of all those from the Kohathite clans who were eligible to serve at the Tabernacle. Moses and Aaron listed them, just as the Lord had commanded through Moses” (Numbers 4:36-37).

“…the total number came to 2,630. So this was the total of all those from the Gershonite clans who were eligible to serve at the Tabernacle. Moses and Aaron listed them, just as the Lord had commanded” (Numbers 4:40-41).

“…the total number came to 3,200. So this was the total of all those from the Merarite clans who were eligible for service. Moses and Aaron listed them, just as the Lord had commanded through Moses” (Numbers 4:44-45).

“And so the registration was completed, just as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Numbers 4:49b).

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22, NIV).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“So the Israelites did everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses (Numbers 1:54, NLT). At least, they did on this particular occasion.

The Lord delivered the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and promised them “the land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 33:3a, NIV). He told them to “Take possession of the land and settle in it, because I have given it to you to occupy” (Numbers 33:53).

So how did they end up wandering around in the wilderness for forty long years? We find the answer in the Lord’s words in Numbers 32:11-12: Of all those I rescued from Egypt, no one who is twenty years old or older will ever see the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for they have not obeyed me wholeheartedly. The only exceptions are Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they have wholeheartedly followed the Lord.” 

When the Israelites were “wholeheartedly” – not half-heartedly – obedient to the Lord’s commands, He blessed them. When they disobeyed, His favor was not with them. News flash: He still expects wholehearted obedience from those of us living today.

Want His blessings? Obey “wholeheartedly.”

“I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6, NIV).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“If you follow My decrees and are careful to obey My commands, ...I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear” (Leviticus 26:3, 6a, NLT).

Ever gone to bed fearful? Or awakened up during the night, heart pounding because of a noise you heard? Being “…able to sleep with no cause for fear is no small blessing.

But there’s a condition on God’s promise of “…peace in the land…” and restful sleep. He promises to bless us with these things “IF you follow My decrees and are careful to obey My commands.”

An obedient life is a peaceful life. Obedience doesn’t mean trouble-free living. It means having “…God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7). It means His peace even in our darkest moments.

If you want the best night’s sleep of your life, read God’s Word and talk to Him before you go to bed. Confess anything that stands between you and a right relationship with Him, “…and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear.”


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“If you want to live securely in the land, follow My decrees and obey My regulations. Then the land will yield large crops, and you will eat your fill and live securely in it” (Leviticus 25:18-19, NLT).

The passage above or similar ones are found throughout the Bible. Over and over the Lord warns His people that the only way to “…live securely in the land [is to] follow My decrees and obey My regulations.”

Yet we’re “…a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts [are] not loyal to God, whose spirits [are] not faithful to Him” (Psalm 78:8, NIV). Many people today think of God as a fire extinguisher. They may not be able to remember the last time they had contact with it and they rarely ever think of it at all; but when a fire breaks out, they know it’s a very handy thing to have around.

No wonder our world, our nation, and our individual homes and lives are in such messes! We’ve taken the Creator of the Universe and subjugated Him to the level of an emergency tool.

Hear my heart on this one, folks: Jesus Christ didn’t come to HELP YOU OUT. He came to TAKE OVER. If you want daily peace and provision, get out of the driver’s seat and give the Lord complete control.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


Leviticus 22 continues instructions to the priests from the previous chapter, then goes into instructions about offerings. Leviticus 23 details the prescribed festivals. What I want to focus on is the offerings.

Leviticus 22:17-33 talks about burnt offerings, peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings, giving specifics about what offerings are considered acceptable or unacceptable. In each case, the Lord says, “…whether it is to fulfill a vow or is a voluntary offering…,” there are explicit requirements for what is to be presented.

Which brings us to our offerings today. If you believe in the scriptural validity of tithing, then you’ve made a vow to tithe. If you’re led to give for other special offerings, then you’re also presenting gifts above and beyond your tithe. But here’s the question: what makes whatever you give acceptable or unacceptable?

Your attitude. And your attitude is determined by your spiritual condition. As God told Samuel, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (I Samuel 16:7b, NLT).

The next time the offering plate is in your hands, consider your attitude before you give. And hey, think about your other giving: your time to prepare a lesson; rehearse with the choir; take care of the nursery; visit, phone, or send cards or even emails to the sick and shut-ins. Whatever you’re doing, remember Who you’re giving to and why you should be “…a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7, NIV).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


It would behoove all believers to spend some time in today’s Leviticus chapters. Chapter 19 is filled with commandments for personal conduct while Chapter 20 prescribes punishment for disobeying those commands. Chapter 21 instructs the priests in how to handle these things. Let’s look at just a few of the commandments from Leviticus 19:

“Each of you must show great respect for your mother and father…” (3a).

“Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people” (16).

“Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives…” (17a).

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite [in other words, a believer], but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (18).

“…do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord” (28b).

“Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord” (32).

“Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord” (14).

I saved Verse 14 for last because I wanted to home in on it. Who is more deaf and blind than those who have yet to open their hearts to the Gospel? Don’t bad-mouth the lost. It’s not their specific sins keeping them out of heaven; it’s their rejection of Christ as Lord and Savior. Just like you and just like me, the moment anyone “…calls on the name of the Lord [that person] will be saved” (Acts 2:21, NLT). Pray for their salvation.

You should also read the punishments for breaking these commandments – you’ll be even more thankful to be living in the day of grace!


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life. You must obey all My regulations and be careful to obey My decrees, for I am the Lord your God. If you obey My decrees and My regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18: 3-5, NLT).

God told Moses to remind the people of Israel that they were to be different from the people around them. Drawing from the warnings of the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, the apostle Paul warns the believers of Corinth and of today: “…come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord” (II Corinthians 6:17a).

True life is knowing Jesus. And knowing Jesus means being holy, set apart, different. You’re not into office gossip. You’re not into dirty jokes. You’re not into flirting and innuendos. Nor dishonesty. Or backbiting. You’re into Jesus.

What do people think of Him as seen through your life today?


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“But if the mildew reappears after all the stones have been replaced and the house has been scraped and replastered, the priest must return and inspect the house again. If he finds that the mildew has spread, the walls are clearly contaminated with a serious mildew, and the house is defiled. It must be torn down” (Leviticus 14: 43-45a, NLT).

More instructions about mildew? Yep. Again we see God’s care for His people’s physical health. But we also see an important lesson about spiritual health. The instructions for cleaning a mildew-contaminated house said that if the mildew persisted, the house had to be torn down. Completely destroyed.

Spiritual mildew needs to be handled likewise. Let’s say your “pet sin” is alcohol. You start out having one drink at lunch and then two or more. You begin stopping off for a nip or two on the way home, and pretty soon, you find yourself drinking at home and more heavily on weekends.

Eventually you realize your drinking has become a problem and you decide to cut back. But cutting back seems to be sporadic at best. You may slack off one day or one week, but by the weekend you find yourself right back in the same ol’ rut. Time to tear that house down, folks. Stop the drinking altogether. Or the lying. Or the illicit affair. Or the embezzling. Or the gossiping. Or the complaining. Or the criticizing. And the list goes on and on. You get the idea. Pick your own pet sin and put it in the scenario.

If ANYTHING besides the Lord God Almighty controls YOU rather than you controlling it, you’re in trouble. Take Barney Fife’s advice and “Nip it in the bud.” Don’t cut back; cut it out.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Now suppose mildew contaminates some woolen or linen clothing, woolen or linen fabric, the hide of an animal, or anything made of leather. If the contaminated area in the clothing, the animal hide, the fabric, or the leather article has turned greenish or reddish, it is contaminated with mildew and must be shown to the priest. After examining the affected spot, the priest will put the article in quarantine for seven days. On the seventh day the priest must inspect it again. If the contaminated area has spread, the clothing or fabric or leather is clearly contaminated by a serious mildew and is ceremonially unclean. The priest must burn the item – the clothing, the woolen or linen fabric, or piece of leather – for it has been contaminated by a serious mildew. It must be completely destroyed by fire” (Leviticus 13: 47-52, NLT).

Care of mildew-contaminated clothing doesn’t sound very spiritual, does it? But fact is, many of the Lord’s commands were for the protection of His people’s physical health. Mildews and molds can be lethal, and by requiring these items to be inspected by the priest and appropriately cleansed or burned, the spread of the contaminant was eliminated.

As our Great High Priest (see Hebrews 4:14; 10:21), Jesus Christ sent His Holy Spirit to indwell each of us who believes on Him as Lord and Savior. His Presence convicts us to examine ourselves and confess any sin that has contaminated our lives and witness; and those confessed sins are forever blotted out by the purifying fire of His Spirit.

“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24, NIV – see also Hebrews 12:29).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


The Lord gave Moses specific instructions as to the construction of the Tabernacle and everything associated with it, including the clothing and conduct of Aaron and his sons who were to serve as priests. But one day two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, disobeyed the Lord’s instructions and presented “…coals of fire in their incense burners [which they had] sprinkled incense over… In this way, they disobeyed the Lord… So fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1-2, NLT).

What prompted Nadab and Abihu to act so foolishly? The Lord’s words to Aaron make it clear what had happened: “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation” (Leviticus 10:8, NLT).

Nadab and Abihu had been drinking, and their overindulgence cost them their lives. God didn’t give us His commands in order to hamper our fun – He gave them to protect us and teach us a better way of living. Father always knows best.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“If you are called to testify about something you have seen or that you know about, it is sinful to refuse to testify, and you will be punished for your sin” (Leviticus 5:1, NLT).

It seems that this passage has been totally forgotten by a lot of believers today. Instead, it’s been replaced with the ever-popular “I don’t want to get involved.”

How often do we read or see on news broadcasts reports about horrible crimes being witnessed by entire crowds of people who made no attempt to help the person in need or even offer information that could help the police catch the criminals? As believers in Jesus Christ, we have a responsibility to help others, which includes being willing to get involved in situations we’d prefer to steer clear of.

Is there a need around you that you’re ignoring?


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“If the entire Israelite community sins by violating one of the Lord’s commands, but the people don’t realize it, they are still guilty. If one of Israel’s leaders sins by violating one of the commands of the Lord his God but doesn’t realize it, he is still guilty. If any of the common people sin by violating one of the Lord’s commands, but they don’t realize it, they are still guilty” (Leviticus 4:13, 22, 27, NLT).

When the Lord spoke the words above to Moses, He followed each one of the listed sentences with: When they become aware of their sin…” In other words, at whatever point the person or persons realized they had committed a sin, they were to bring an offering before the Lord and seek His forgiveness.

And each of those offerings required the shedding of blood. As New Testament believers in the resurrected Savior, we know that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross paid the one perfect and permanent blood sacrifice for the sins of all who would accept His saving grace. However, we still need to remember that we, corporately as the body of Christ and individually as His children, have a serious obligation to confess our sins as soon as we realize them.

God never breaks fellowship with His children, but a believer can allow a barrier of unconfessed sin to build up like a wall between him and the Lord. Don’t let sin “pile up” unconfessed. As my former pastor was advised by a wise older preacher, “‘Fess ‘em as you does ‘em; don’t bunch ‘em.”


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“The cloud of the Lord hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:38, NLT).

The people faithfully gave so that the Tabernacle could be completed. Once completed, what happened? “..the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). God’s presence was with the Israelites in a real and visible way and remained with them “... throughout all their journeys.”

You may never see a visible manifestation of God’s presence while here on earth, but if you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have His very real Presence within you and He will remain with you “…throughout all [life’s] journeys.”


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“So Moses gave the command, and this message was sent throughout the camp: ‘Men and women, don’t prepare any more gifts for the sanctuary. We have enough!’ So the people stopped bringing their sacred offerings. Their contributions were more than enough to complete the whole project” (Exodus 36:6-7, NLT).

Can you imagine a church with a problem like this? The people of Israel so eagerly gave to help build the Tabernacle that Moses finally had to tell them, “Enough!” Why were they so happy to give? They recognized the worthiness of the Lord, and they saw their giving as a privilege and not a burden or obligation.

How do you see your giving?


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“The Lord replied to Moses, ‘I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.’ Moses responded, ‘Then show me Your glorious presence.’ The Lord replied, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will call out My name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at My face, for no one may see Me and live.’ The Lord continued, ‘Look, stand near Me on this rock. As My glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove My hand and let you see Me from behind. But My face will not be seen (Exodus 33:17-23, NLT).

“He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.”

(He Hideth My Soul, by Fanny Crosby, 1890)

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2, NIV).

“As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame’” (Romans 9:33).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep My Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between Me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy’” (Exodus 31:13, NLT).

Most Christians celebrate Sunday as the Sabbath, but the Jewish Sabbath was and is from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. While there are some Christians who would vehemently argue the error of worshiping on Sunday (in recognition of Sunday as the day of Christ’s resurrection) rather than Saturday, the big issue here is to set aside a day that is unlike any other and spend it resting from your normal weekday routine; meeting with fellow believers and truly worshiping the Savior; and reflecting on His goodness.

How do you honor the Sabbath?


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“…Aaron will carry the names of the tribes of Israel on the sacred chestpiece over his heart when he goes into the Holy Place. This will be a continual reminder that he represents the people when he comes before the Lord” (Exodus 28:29, NLT).

As a member of the priesthood, Aaron represented his fellow Israelites when he stood before the Lord in the Holy of Holies. As a fellow Israelite and as a member of the priesthood, Aaron represented his Lord every time he stood before any other person, whether Jew or Gentile.

Have you ever stopped to think about who you represent? If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you represent Him wherever you go, whatever you do, and whomever you stand before. Honor Him.

“And you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple. What’s more, you are His holy priests” (I Peter 2:5, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Have the people of Israel build Me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you” (Exodus 25:8-9, NLT).

God is a God of detail and order – see First Corinthians 14:33. He didn’t instruct Moses to build some sort of sanctuary. He gave him precise instructions about every single part of it, including the furnishings.

If God is so detailed, why do we think we can be so haphazard? Haphazard about what? Our time in the Word. Our attendance at our chosen place of worship. Our prayer life. Our witnessing. Our lifestyle.

Today God does a lot more than “live among” us. Jesus’ death and resurrection empowered the Holy Spirit to indwell each and every person who has trusted Christ as Lord and Savior. And when He comes to indwell a believer, He doesn’t do so sporadically – He isn’t there one moment and gone the next; He isn’t there one day and on vacation the next. He’s consistent. Faithful. Completely trustworthy.

Are you?


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Then [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people. Again they all responded, ‘We will do everything the Lord has commanded. We will obey.’ Then Moses took the blood [of the sacrifice] from the basins and splattered it over the people, declaring, ‘Look, this blood confirms the covenant the Lord has made with you in giving you these instructions’” (Exodus 24:7-8, NLT).

When Moses received the Ten Commandments from the Lord, he also received many other instructions about social responsibility, annual festivals and more. The Lord also promised to send an angel before them (see Exodus 23:20) to protect and lead them, making them this promise: “…I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you” (Exodus 23:22, NLT).

But this promise was conditional. The Lord would fulfill His part of this particular covenant IF the Israelites kept their part of the agreement.

Making a commitment to the Lord is a serious matter. When it comes to committing your heart and life to Him, it’s truly a matter of life or death. Those who choose Jesus choose life.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Then God gave the people all these instructions: ‘I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.’

(1) ‘You must not have any other god but me.’

(2) ‘You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject Me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love Me and obey My commands.’

(3) ‘You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse His name.’

(4) ‘Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.’

(5) ‘Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.’

(6) ‘You must not murder.’

(7) ‘You must not commit adultery.’

(8) ‘You must not steal.’

(9) ‘You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.’

(10) ‘You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor’” 
(Exodus 20:1-17, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow My instructions. On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual. Then Moses told them, ‘Do not keep any of it until morning.’ But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell” (Exodus 16:4-5, 19a, NLT).

The people of Israel complained about their lack of food in the desert and the Lord miraculous rained down manna from heaven, instructing them that He would provide this heavenly food every single day except the Sabbath and that the normal amount they prepared on the sixth day, be it manna-cotti or manna burgers – would be enough for the Sabbath’s meals as well.

Isn’t it interesting how quickly the Israelites became accustomed to a daily miraculous provision of manna? And even though the Lord provided for each day’s food, many still didn’t trust Him. Instead of waiting for the next day’s provision, they hoarded away extra manna just as the Lord had told them not to do. And the result? Rotten unusable manna.

That hoarded manna was just like worrying – it was no good to anyone. If you trust God at all, you have to trust Him daily. Jesus said, “…don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“When all the Israelites had reached the other side, the Lord said to Moses, ‘Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.’ So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the Lord swept them into the sea. Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers – the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived. But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, as the water stood up like a wall on both sides” (Exodus 14:26-29, NLT).

Never doubt that God is still in the miracle business. We may not see literal waters parted for our deliverance, but His hand still works to deliver His people. Does He always? No, not when it comes to earthly deliverance. His way of doing things doesn’t always jibe with the way we think things should be done or turn out – read Isaiah 55:8. But still today He sometimes chooses to intervene in miraculous ways.

But what exactly constitutes a miracle? It’s far more than just the parting of the Red Sea. If you’ve never seen this news report, please take a moment to look at this brief video about a 92-year-old woman’s deliverance from a would-be mugger:

God is faithful and He loves you.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“This is what the Lord says: ‘At midnight tonight I will pass through the heart of Egypt. All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on his throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest servant girl who grinds the flour. Even the firstborn of all the livestock will die. Then a loud wail will rise throughout the land of Egypt, a wail like no one has heard before or will ever hear again. But among the Israelites it will be so peaceful that not even a dog will bark. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites’” (Exodus 11:4b-7, NLT).

After all the plagues the Lord sent against Egypt, Pharaoh continued to harden his heart and refused to release the people of Israel from slavery and allow them to leave the land. Finally, the Lord sent the most terrible plague of all – the death of the first-born. But the Israelites weren’t touched by this horror. Why? Because they were protected by the blood of the Lamb.

There is always a distinction between God’s true people and those who don’t belong to Him. When my father went home to be with the Lord, he was living with me and my husband Larry. I held his hand as he drew his last breath and Larry was right beside him. Even though we didn’t want him to leave us, we were at absolute peace because we knew where he was spending his eternity. Afterwards, when the hospice nurse arrived, she said, “We’re not supposed to talk about religion, but I know this is a Christian home. You wouldn’t believe the chaos we have to deal with when a person dies in a household where there’s no faith in Jesus Christ.”

Do you know Jesus as Lord and Savior? Take comfort in knowing you’re covered by the blood of the Lamb.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did what the Lord had commanded them. Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a serpent! Then Pharaoh called in his own wise men and sorcerers, and these Egyptian magicians did the same thing with their magic. They threw down their staffs, which also became serpents! But then Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs” (Exodus 7:10-12, NLT).


Through Aaron and Moses the Lord worked miraculous signs and wonders before Pharaoh and the people of Egypt. When Aaron “threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, it…” was transformed into a snake. But Pharaoh’s magicians were able to do the same thing, but when they did, Aaron’s one snake swallowed all of theirs!

The Bible clearly warns us that the devil can mimic miracles. Paul reminds us that, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14b, NLT).

But that’s just the point: it’s only a disguise. Nothing Satan can throw down is remotely as powerful as what the Lord Jesus Christ can do. Besides, Satan is really just a big dog on a short leash.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“But Moses pleaded with the Lord, ‘O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though You have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.’ Then the Lord asked Moses, ‘Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say’” (Exodus 4:10-12, NLT).

Many people lack self-confidence – Moses, for one. Having had the finest education the royal family of Egypt could provide, he still felt inadequate for the task God laid before him.

Do you ever feel like Moses – totally out of your own league? If you’re a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, your Heavenly Father has great confidence in you. He’s placed His Holy Spirit within you to guide and instruct you, and there is nothing He will ever call you to do without equipping you to do it.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps” (I Peter 2:21, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. …God called to him from the middle of the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ ‘Here I am!’ Moses replied. ‘Do not come any closer,’ the Lord warned. ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Then the Lord told him, ‘I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them... Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt’” (Exodus 3:2a, 4b-6a, 7-8a, 10, NLT).

By the time of Moses’ birth, Joseph’s importance to the Egyptians had long been forgotten. The Israelites had become slaves and the Egyptians had become cruel taskmasters. Fearing that the growing population of Israelites would outnumber the Egyptians and cause trouble, Pharaoh ordered the death of all Israelite baby boys.

But Moses’ mother protected him and he was taken into the household of the Pharaoh’s own daughter. Later, as an adult, Moses killed an Egyptian he saw beating an Israelite slave. He then fled for his life and ended up in Midian.

Moses may have been hiding out, but God knew exactly where to find him and the plan He had for his life.

God has a special plan for the life of every believer, including you.

For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


As Jacob lay on his deathbed, he blessed each of his sons, saying to Judah: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the One to whom it belongs, the One whom all nations will honor” (Genesis 49:10, NLT)

From the lineage of Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel - look back at Genesis 35:10) came the Lion of Judah. When God makes a promise, He keeps it. What are you trusting Him for today?

“Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory” (Revelation 5:5b, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“So Jacob set out for Egypt with all his possessions. And when he came to Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father, Isaac. During the night God spoke to him in a vision. ‘Jacob! Jacob!’ He called. ‘Here I am,’ Jacob replied. ‘I am God, the God of your father,’ the voice said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. But you will die in Egypt with Joseph attending to you’” (Genesis 46:1-4, NLT).

When Jacob’s sons returned and told him the good news about Joseph, their father was overjoyed. Gathering all the family’s members and possessions, they headed for Egypt to live on the land Joseph had offered them.

Imagine leaving your home country at the ripe old age of 130 to settle in a foreign land. It took faith and trust in Jehovah for Jacob to make such a move. But note how Jacob began his journey: by offering sacrifices to God.

Faithfulness is always rewarded. Jacob trusted the Lord and the Lord gave and fulfilled a tremendous promise to him.

“There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (I Peter 1:6b-7, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“‘I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. And He is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh – the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt. You can live in the region of Goshen, where you can be near me with all your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and everything you own. I will take care of you there…’ Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him” (Genesis 45:4b-5, 8b, 10-11a, 15, NLT).

During the widespread famine, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt hoping to buy grain. How stunned they were to find that the brother they’d sold as a slave had become a powerful ruler! How terrified they were that he would take revenge on them for what they had done to him!

But look at Joseph’s response. He realized that his hardships as a slave and even in prison were all part of an amazing plan orchestrated by God Almighty. A right attitude on Joseph’s part brought blessing for himself and for his family.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge…, but love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his officials. So Pharaoh asked his officials, ‘Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours’” (Genesis 41:37-40, NLT).

Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers; falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife; and thrown into prison. Then after Joseph interpreted the royal cup-bearer’s dream and assured the man that he would be released from prison – which is precisely what happened – the cup-bearer completely forgot about Joseph for two full years.

But when a troubling dream upset Pharaoh, the cup-bearer remembered Joseph languishing in prison and told the Pharaoh about him. Joseph was brought to Pharaoh, interpreted the dream and, in doing so, helped the entire country prepare for a coming famine. The Pharaoh was so grateful that he put Joseph in a place of authority second to no one but himself.

Joseph used an amazing gift to help the Pharaoh. Joseph’s amazing God gave Joseph that gift; and Joseph, in turn, gave the Lord full credit for his ability.

“So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor” (I Peter 5:6, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully” (Genesis 39:6b-7a, NLT).

Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt and bought by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guards. The man treated Joseph kindly and trusted him. When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, Joseph rejected her advances, infuriating her so that she falsely accused Joseph of trying to attack her. Joseph was sent to prison and, as far as we know, Potiphar’s wife continued her life as usual.

What was fair about that? Nothing. But you’ll find that Joseph’s circumstance does eventually change for the better.

Vera’s granddaughter stormed in one day, complaining, “My tryout was just as good as Haley’s, but she made cheerleader and I didn’t. It’s just not FAIR.” Vera’s answer said a mouthful: “Honey, FARE is what you pay to ride the bus.” Life isn’t always fair; but God is always faithful.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt” (Genesis 37:28, NLT).

Joseph’s brothers despised him and decided to kill him. One brother intervened and convinced the rest to throw him into an empty well (cistern) to die on his own – this brother’s real intent was to come back and rescue him when the rest of the brothers weren’t around to stop him. But before he could act, a chance to make a fast buck came along and Joseph was sold into slavery and carried off to Egypt.

Sounds like a horrible ending, doesn’t it? But God’s plans are so much bigger than anything we can imagine! Joseph’s journey into Egypt brought him blessings and enabled him to become the rescuer of his entire family.

Remember, my brothers and sisters: sometimes our darkest moments are truly just before dawn.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26b, NLT).

Have you ever been desperate for an answer to your prayer? I know I have. God is faithful, but you must also be. If you know in your heart that what you’re asking is in His righteous will, then do as Jesus instructed in Luke 11:9:

“…keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

In Ephesians 1:17, the NIV quotes Paul as saying, “I keep on asking…”

Never give up. Keep praying; keep asking. Hold on and believe.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another” (Genesis 31:49, NKJV).

These were the words of Laban as he and Jacob parted ways. As they made their agreement, these men stacked stones together as a memorial and as a boundary between them.

Note what Laban’s words recognized: that even when they were not in each other’s sight, the Lord was with both of them and watching over them. No act is done in secret from God. No agreement is ever broken without His knowledge. Be faithful to your Lord and honor the commitments you’ve made.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and He said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions – to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants’” (Genesis 28:11b-14, NLT)

The Lord appeared to Jacob in a dream and made Him a promise: “…all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.” And ever true to His Word, God fulfilled that promise by sending the Messiah, the Lion of Judah, through the lineage of Jacob’s son Judah. (Remember, the Lord gave Jacob a new name, Israel - see Genesis 35:10. Jacob, who became Israel, was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel – see First Chronicles 2:1.)

Think of all the promises the Lord makes to us throughout His Word. He is faithful!

“For all God's promises are ‘Yes’ in Him [Christ Jesus]. And so through Him we can say ‘Amen,’ to the glory of God” (II Corinthians 1:20, ISV).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, ‘I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!’ (This is how Esau got his other name, Edom, which means ‘red.’) ‘All right,’ Jacob replied, ‘but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.’ ‘Look, I’m dying of starvation!’ said Esau. ‘What good is my birthright to me now?’ But Jacob said, ‘First you must swear that your birthright is mine.’ So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn” (Genesis 25:29-34, NLT).

Before her twin sons were even born, the Lord told Rebekah, “your older son will serve your younger son” (Genesis 25:23). Nothing takes God by surprise. He’s seen the future just as surely as He’s seen the past. Being firstborn son was a huge honor and a huge responsibility, yet the Bible records that Esau “showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn.” For a bowl of stew and a piece of bread, this man gave up his birthright.

If you know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you are a child of God. And Romans 8:17a says that “since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.” What an incredible privilege!

And yet how often do we show contempt for our birthright as believers in Jesus Christ by talking or behaving in ways that dishonor Him just so we can fit in at the office, at school or with “friends”?

Stay true to Christ. He loved you so much it hurt.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Then [Isaac] said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering’” (Genesis 22:7b-8a, NKJV).

The Lord tested Abraham’s faith by seeing if he would place his and Sarah’s only son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. The elderly Abraham obeyed. And just as amazingly, the strapping young man Isaac obeyed his father’s command to lie down on the altar. As they walked the final steps to the place of sacrifice, Isaac looked at his father and asked, “…where is the lamb…?”

And Abraham answered with confidence, “God will provide… the lamb…” Folks, that’s faith. Two questions for you to ponder: (1) Is there anything you’re holding back from God? (2) How much are you willing to trust Him?


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26, NLT).

The blast of intense heat as God rained down judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah transformed Lot’s wife into “a pillar of salt.” Whether you want to take her demise literally at face value or delve into a more scientific explanation of the event, it happened.

Because of what? Looking back. But may I suggest that Lot’s wife did more than look back? She also hung back. See the passage again: “…as she was following behind him…” While Lot and his daughters moved away from the evil cities God was about to destroy, Lot’s wife dawdled, not wanting to break her ties with a place that, were it not for its impending destruction, she would not have wanted to leave.

If you stick close to evil, it rubs off on you and can lead to your earthly and/or eternal destruction. If you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, don’t look back on your old life. Look to Jesus and move forward for His glory.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son” (Genesis 18:13-14, NLT).

Sarah doubted, and what did God do? Fulfilled His promise. Are you struggling with doubt? Confess it – your Heavenly Father already knows.

NOTHING is “too hard for the Lord.” Trust Him to work His will, His way, in His time.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, ‘Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!’ And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:5-6, NLT).

The God of the Impossible has never made a promise He hasn’t kept. He told the aging and childless Abram that he and his wife Sarai would have descendants as abundant as the stars in the sky. A big promise? Yes. But a small thing for an Almighty God.

His Word is full of promises for you and me. What are you believing Him for today?


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!” (Job 42:10, NLT).

Job’s friends had been more his accusers than his defenders. Yet the Lord told those men, “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf” (Job 42:8b). Though his friends had acted more like enemies, Job was willing to pray for them, an impossible task unless Job had refused to hold any ill will against them. He fully forgave them and asked his Creator to also forgive them.

And the result? Job was blessed: AFTER “Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes.”

“… I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 5:44-45a).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind?” (Job 38:36, NLT).

My granddaddy often said, “A fella’ll do okay if he’ll just use the sense God gave him.” There’s a lot of truth in that. Our Creator made us “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27) and, in doing so, He gave us “intuition,” which is perception of truth independent of any reasoning process. In other words, sometimes you just KNOW. Likewise with “instinct” – it’s a natural intuitive power.

Despite man’s tendency toward sin, we instinctively know when something is wrong. No one “falls” into a lifestyle of sin – a person walks in step by gradual step. Those God-given alarm bells go off, but he ignores them. And every time, it gets a little easier until, finally, he doesn’t even hear the alarm anymore.

God has given you His wisdom – read First Corinthians 1:30. Use it. No, your life won’t be trouble-free if you do; but you’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary difficulties by staying attuned to the Holy Spirit’s warnings.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty; but even though He is just and righteous, He does not destroy us. No wonder people everywhere fear Him. All who are wise show Him reverence” (Job 37:23-24, NLT).

God sees our sinfulness and yet “He does not destroy us.” Why? Because He loves us. And He doesn’t just love humanity as a whole – He loves each one of us individually. The One so mighty that His Word alone spoke the world into being cares for YOU. For ME. He knows us by name; and we should daily thank Him for His grace and mercy.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“We don’t set the time when we will come before God in judgment” (Job 34:23, NLT).

Have you ever talked to someone about the Christian life only to have them say something like, “I’m gonna get myself right with God one of these days”? How foolish for any person to risk eternity by delaying putting his faith in Jesus Christ!

None of us are guaranteed our very next breath. Life at best is short – and believe me, the older you get, the faster time flies.

Second Corinthians 6:2 reminds us: “…the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation.” No believer should waste an opportunity to tell someone about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And no believer should begin or end a day without consciously searching his heart and confessing any sins of omission or commission.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“Let God weigh me on the scales of justice, for He knows my integrity” (Job 28:28, NLT).

Job’s statement is a bold one. Is your life so aligned with God’s perfect will that you could say such a thing? I know I’d be terrified to! But here’s what I don’t want us to miss: Job’s statement says more about the Lord than it does about himself. In spite of all his troubles, Job knew God was the Righteous Judge and that he could trust Him.

Do you? No matter what you’ve been through or are going through right now, He’s worthy of your absolute faith and confidence.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“…this is what He says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding’” (Job 28:28, NLT).

There’s such a thing as a healthy fear. I had great parents, but I feared them. No, I wasn’t terrified that they’d hurt me or abuse me in any way; but I did know that disobeying them carried consequences. And I also knew that many of the rules they laid down weren’t to cramp my style or spoil my fun, but to protect me and teach me. Above all, I never doubted they loved me.

Our Heavenly Father is the Greatest Parent of All, and He loves us beyond what any human can even comprehend. His rules, His commandments, are for our good. When we mature as believers, we realize this truth; and we realize that a healthy fear of who He is and His absolute authority is a very good thing.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“I go east, but He is not there. I go west, but I cannot find Him. I do not see Him in the north, for He is hidden. I look to the south, but He is concealed” (Job 23:8-9, NLT).

Have you ever felt like you were praying but no one was listening? Ever felt so alone that you had no sense of God’s presence? Job did. And I know there have been times when I’ve felt that way.

Yet the Lord Himself makes each and every believer this promise: “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5). The Christian life is not just about feelings – it’s about faith. Trust Him even when it doesn’t seem He’s listening – because He is. Trust Him even when it seems He isn’t with you – because He’s there and He’ll never, ever leave you.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see Him for myself. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” (Job 19:25-27, NLT).

How long has it been since you’ve stopped to think about the awesome reality that you will one day see God for yourself; that you will one day see Him with your own eyes? Job realized this truth and, even in the midst of his troubles, was “overwhelmed at the thought!”

Eternity is more real than the present. Your Redeemer is more real than your greatest difficulty or worry. Your Redeemer is more powerful than any enemy that can assail you. Your Redeemer lives! And He knows you by name. We serve a loving, all-powerful, personal God.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“My eyes are red with weeping; dark shadows circle my eyes. Yet I have done no wrong, and my prayer is pure” (Job 16:16-17, NLT).

Ever found yourself overwhelmed by troubles and wondering why so many things went wrong? I sure have. Many of you are aware that Larry and I have a son and daughter-in-law who, for reasons we don’t know, stopped communicating with us several years ago. Since that time, they’ve become parents of two daughters, our only grandchildren, whom we've never been allowed to meet. The amount of tears we’ve shed over this situation could certainly fill an ocean.

But thanks to the wonderful indwelling Holy Spirit, our Comforter has helped us move past the pain and live in peace. Like Job’s friends, many people – even with the best of intentions – have offered us advice and tried to get me and Larry to ‘fess up to whatever we did to cause the rift. Yet we can offer no explanation for why it happened and know of nothing we could admit to having done that might have caused it.

Not all suffering can be explained, and certainly not all suffering is due to personal sin. I didn’t cause the estrangement in our family and neither did Larry. Yet here we are, living with a situation we deeply wish didn’t exist.

If you’re in a valley of sorrow and you haven’t done anything to cause your problem, the Lord is also aware of your innocence. Even if you goofed up big-time and created the mess you’re in, He still loves you and will forgive you the moment you ask Him to. Above all, be assured He can fill you with His peace no matter your circumstance.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“But true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are His” (Job 10:13, NLT).

When Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar heard of Job’s troubles and came to him, they sat with him in silence for seven days. (You can read more about the custom of “sitting shiva” by following this link: And after the seven days had passed, they began to offer their words of “wisdom,” chiefly that Job should confess and repent of the sins he had committed that had caused these catastrophes to come upon him.

Job’s response was firm: “Stop assuming my guilt, for I have done no wrong” (Job 6:29, NLT). Job wisely rejected his friends’ advice and clung to his trust in God not only in spite of, but also because of, his circumstances. In troubled times, don’t run FROM God; run TO Him.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together” (Job 9:33, NLT).

Job longed for someone to stand between him and the Lord, someone to speak to God on his behalf, “a mediator.” How thankful we should be to have been born after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, after He sent His Holy Spirit to live within each and every believer!

Every moment of every day we have access to the One whom Job so greatly desired. As the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “... there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity – the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5, NLT).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“‘I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!’ In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God” (Job 1:21-22, NLT).

Job had been slammed with all sorts of bad news – and more was to come. Yet he chose to trust God rather than focusing on his current difficulties and sorrow.

Child of God, troubles pass; but the love of God is never-ending. The resurrected Jesus Christ sent His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to indwell every person who has put his faith in Him. You’ve been equipped with everything you need to handle whatever comes at you.

Let me explain what I’m talking about. Former gas station attendant and janitor Ronald Read of Vermont died in 2015 at the age of 92. He’d worn a coat held together with safety pins and had foraged in the woods for firewood to heat his home. Yet after his death, people were shocked to learn he had over six million dollars in the bank.

Folks, having money in the bank and being willing to withdraw it and use it are two different things. Having the indwelling Holy Spirit and choosing to draw on His power are two different things. Don’t ignore what God has given you. Don’t rely on your own puny strength. Depend on the endless power of the Lord and He will see you through every trial.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


When the floodwaters subsided and it was safe to leave the ark, what did Noah do? He “…built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose” (Genesis 8:20, NLT).

And how did God respond? “…the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night’” (Genesis 8:21-22).

Noah expressed his gratitude for God’s protection and, because he did, “…God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth. All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables” (Genesis 9:1-3).

And then God made a covenant for all time:  “…God told Noah and his sons, ‘I hereby confirm my covenant with you and your descendants, and with all the animals that were on the boat with you – the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals – every living creature on earth. Yes, I am confirming my covenant with you. Never again will floodwaters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth.

 Then God said, ‘I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.’ Then God said to Noah, ‘Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth’” (Genesis 9:8-17, NLT).

Next time you see a rainbow, remember that it’s a promise from God. And whatever promise He’s placed in your heart, trust it, too. He is faithful.


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


“When everything was ready, the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I can see that you alone are righteous.’ So Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him. That very day Noah had gone into the boat with his wife and his sons – Shem, Ham, and Japheth – and their wives. Then the Lord closed the door behind them” (Genesis 7:1, 5, 16b, NLT).

Prior to the flood, humans lived long, long lives. Noah was 600 years old (See Genesis 7:11) when the flood came and he’d spent years – there’s a big debate over just how many years – building the ark. The world of Noah’s day, instead of living to please God, had chosen evil. And because of that, God said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years” (Genesis 6:3).

I’ve heard people quote “three score and ten” – 70 years – as a normal lifespan. Where does that come from? Psalm 90:10a: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years” (KJV). Or as the NLT words it: “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty.” God didn’t set 70 or 80 as a limit – the writer of Psalm 90, Moses, stated it as what he was seeing as a typical lifespan. Point is, whether you live to 70, 80, or 120, God determines your years and has reduced the years of man from what it was in Noah’s day.

Several things I want us to note about Noah’s situation: (1) God told him to build the ark – God didn’t do it for him. God warned Noah of the impending flood – see Genesis 6:17 – but Noah had to choose to believe God and obey Him. God doesn’t drag any of us to His safety – He simply gives us a very clear choice. (2) Noah’s faith became his family’s faith. Noah set an example that rubbed off on his family. (3) Noah believed God in spite of the likelihood that he had never even seen rain, let alone flooding.

Lastly, (4) look who closed the door of the ark – God did: Then the Lord closed the door behind them” (Genesis 7:16b). The ark represents Christ. In Him and through Him alone is there salvation. “God waited patiently” (I Peter 3:20b) for Noah to finish building the ark and then He sent the floodwaters. Undoubtedly Noah’s sons worked alongside him in its construction and endured the scoffing and ridicule of their neighbors – the construction site had probably become a regular tourist attraction. But had any of those onlookers believed when Noah told them why he was building the ark, God would have spared them. Their unbelief, however, forced a just and holy God to close the door on their opportunity to be saved.

I don’t believe for a skinny minute that Noah neglected to warn his neighbors. There’s no way that a man like Noah could have developed a fatalistic attitude toward all those souls he knew would be lost forever. And neither can we. We are not responsible for the outcome of our witness; but we are assuredly responsible to witness. Time is short. Tell somebody about Jesus.

“Noah was a righteous man… and he walked in close fellowship with God” (Genesis 6:9b).


Copyright 2017
Judy Woodward Bates


How many times have you read the entire Bible? Jesus is identified as “the eternal, living Word of God” (I Peter 1:23b, NLT). That alone should tell us how important it is to know the “Word of God.” I hope you’ll join me for a chronological look through the entire Bible during 2017. We’re going to start with the earliest writings and go all the way through in the order in which it was written. In addition to what you’ll see here, there’s a suggested reading to follow. If you do that during 2017, you’ll read the entire Bible in only a few chapters a day.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then God said, ‘Let Us make human beings in Our image, to be like Us’” (Genesis 1:1, 26a, NLT).

“In the beginning God…” The Creator of the Universe is, always was, and always will be. When Moses had his burning bush experience as God commissioned him to lead Israel out of slavery, Moses asked how he should identify the One who sent him. “God replied to Moses, ‘I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).

In John 8 Jesus, while teaching a crowd of Jews, said to them: “Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to My coming. He saw it and was glad.’ The people said, ‘You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” (John 8:56-58a).

God the Father was present at creation. The Holy Spirit was present at creation. Jesus was present at creation. John opens his gospel proclaiming the preexistence of Christ: “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him” (John 1:1-3).

So we see that the Triune God who created everything in existence did so through the “Living Word.” Jesus. As you read today’s passage, you’ll see that Jesus literally spoke the world into being. And speaking of being, what an astounding thought that we human beings, of all living things, are the one and only part of creation made in God’s own image. Use your life to show others how good God is.


Copyright 2017

Judy Woodward Bates


“What good does it do, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but does not prove it with actions? This kind of faith cannot save him, can it? Suppose a brother or sister does not have any clothes or daily food and one of you tells them, ‘Go in peace! Stay warm and eat heartily.’ If you do not provide for their bodily needs, what good does it do? In the same way, faith by itself, if it does not prove itself with actions, is dead” (James 2:14-17, ISV).

Yesterday I said that I believe sometimes we have more faith in persuading people to help us out than we do in God showing up and providing. We are oftentimes far too quick to call on others and far too slow in asking and trusting the Lord for our provision.

Do I mean I don’t agree with “Go Fund Me” pages or other fundraisers? No. In most cases, these are great ways to make people aware of a need and give them an opportunity to help. But in some instances, I’ve seen “Go Fund Me” pages and other fundraisers started by dishonest people who, as my Daddy would have said, were “too lazy to hit a lick at a snake.” And unfortunately, it’s these kinds of people who make us all leery of donating to anything we’re not personally familiar with.

Still, I can assure you there are countless legitimate needs all around you; and if you’ll pray and ask the Lord, He’ll show you the places where He wants you to help. The key is listening to the Holy Spirit and following His leading.

We know there’s no greater need than salvation, and had Philip not listened to the Holy Spirit and obediently left his thriving ministry to go out into the desert, he’d have never met the court official of Ethiopia’s Queen Candace and would have missed an opportunity to spread the Gospel even farther – see Acts 8. But if you look back to the beginning of this post, you also see the urgency in James’ message for us to concern ourselves not only with people’s spiritual welfare, but with their physical needs.

I hope you’ll make a commitment to the Lord to start this New Year with an open heart and open mind. Ask Him to provide for you so you can provide for others. Ask Him to show you the needs you can meet and give you the opportunity to quietly, and maybe even anonymously, help out some people around you.

Remember, too, that every need doesn’t mean shelling out money. The Lord may prompt you to simply visit a lonely neighbor, nursing home resident, or assisted living resident. All of us have skills and abilities. Pray about helping others by cooking meals; cleaning house; doing yard work; doing auto or home maintenance; driving folks to doctors’ appointments; and other errands.

There are so many ways we can minister to other people. And when they ask, “Why are you doing this?” you can tell them, “Because God wants me to show you He loves you.”

Copyright © 2016
Judy Woodward Bates


“So don’t ever worry by saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ because it is the unbelievers who are eager for all those things. Surely your heavenly Father knows that you need all of them!” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 6:31-32, ISV).

Do we believe in the power of prayer or the power of persuasion? So often I read a Facebook post that goes far beyond asking for prayer. It’s like, “I’m asking y’all to pray with me for the Lord to provide the money to pay my power bill.” Or get a prescription filled. Or put gas in the car. Etc., etc., etc.

Am I suggesting we shouldn’t pray for each other? Of course not. But I believe that sometimes we have more faith in persuading people to help us out than we do in God simply showing up and providing. Let me give you an example.

My Grandmother Willis was poor but proud. On one of her children’s birthday, she had promised to bake a cake. But when she checked the old icebox, she discovered a big problem: she had no eggs.

So what did she do? She went out on her tiny porch and began to pray. She wasn’t wailing out loud for the neighbors to hear, “O Lord, send me some eggs!” She was silently praying to the One she believed could meet her need.

Now it’s important to bear in mind that Grandmother lived in the city. There were no farms around her. Only buildings, pavement, and sidewalks. But as she continued to pray, she heard a strange sound coming from the shrubbery in front of the house. It was a chicken! More precisely, it was a hen. That little red hen politely laid two eggs underneath one of the bushes, then went on her very merry way. How’s that for believing in God’s provision?

Grandmother could have gone next door and borrowed, but she wasn’t one to do that, and there wasn’t an extra cent in the house for her to go buy eggs. She chose what she believed to be the surest route to solve her problem: she turned to the Creator of All Things.

Children of God, if He can speak the world into being, it’s not too great an effort for Him to provide someone with a couple of eggs. So before you start asking everybody else for help, ask your Heavenly Father. If you keep your need between you and Him, I truly believe you’ll see greater provision and greater blessing than you’ll ever see by announcing your need to others.

(And before anybody blasts me about things like “Go Fund Me” pages, I’m going to address that topic tomorrow.)

Copyright © 2016
Judy Woodward Bates


“Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be filled with gratitude, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28, Berean Study Bible).

How many of us can truthfully say we’re “filled with gratitude”? Frederick Keonig is credited with rightfully saying that “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”

Negatives are a part of living in a fallen world. If you’re having a problem-free day – or even a problem-free hour – be thankful. Your circumstance or mine could change in a split second.

Which is precisely why the writer of Hebrews reminds us that “we are receiving an unshakable kingdom.” This old earth is shakable. Events take place every day that make us shake our heads and wonder, “What next?” And the Lord has the answer to that question. What’s next? “An unshakable kingdom.”

Jesus told us, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33b, NLT). Where will we have all these problems? “Here on earth.” 

Which is why Peter wants us to remember that we are merely “temporary residents” on earth (First Peter 2:11). And it’s also why Paul (who knew a heap about suffering) tells us that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later” (Romans 8:18).

Folks, things may not look that great right here, but we are headed for “an unshakable kingdom”! If we believe that, we ought to live like it. We ought to talk like it. We ought to be encouragers, not down-in-the-mouth, poor, poor, pitiful, depressed people. Jesus promises me and you and all those who have received Him as Lord and Savior an eternal home in glory!

So let’s follow the advice of the writer of Hebrews and “let us be filled with gratitude.” But that’s not all. Let’s also “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” When’s the last time you told your Heavenly Father: “Lord, I’m amazed by You, how You love me.” (“Amazed” by Phillips, Craig, & Dean)

Hope you’ll take a few minutes to worship with this beautiful song of praise:

Copyright © 2016
Judy Woodward Bates


“Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24, NLT).

Have you ever met someone who seems to have the right words for every occasion? This person can smooth ruffled feathers and calm anxious people almost just by being in the room. What a blessing to have a person like that in your corner!

But then there are those other folks: the ones who open their mouths and cause hurt feelings, stress, and arguments. After trying to gently admonish a lady (I’ll call Pat) who had said something terribly offensive to another lady at a get-together, I actually had Pat tell me, “I can’t help it. My mama was that way and I guess I’m just like my mama.” No, Pat was how she chose to be. She enjoyed inflicting hurt and stirring up trouble.

And that’s exactly what the Bible warns us not to do: “…harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1b). When we see trouble brewing, each of us must make a choice: we can throw gas on the fire or choose words and actions to help bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Which do you tend to do?

Colossians 3:12b says, “…clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” And Proverbs 12:6b plainly shows the power of gentle speech: “…the words of the godly save lives.”

Our kind words and deeds can lead others to a saving knowledge of Jesus and they can also diffuse a terrifying, life-threatening situation in the here and now. In 2013, Antoinette Tuff was going about a normal workday at her job in a Decatur, Georgia school office. Her gentle words and actions saved countless lives that day. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to the actual 911 recording of Antoinette and the gunman who entered her school with 500 rounds of ammunition.

There is no doubt in my mind that Antoinette didn’t drum up her skills at the moment this happened. She had years of experience in the practice of “kind words” and actions. I hope this amazing lady will inspire you to practice kindness on a daily basis. Click this link to hear her: WARNING: After this call plays, other 911 calls will follow. Do NOT listen to those, as they contain language you don’t want to hear.

See more about Antoinette Tuff at:

Copyright © 2016
Judy Woodward Bates


“God places the lonely in families…” (Psalm 68:6a, NLT).

This Christmas was our eleventh Christmas without our son and his family in our lives. We have two granddaughters who are now second and fifth graders and we’ve never laid eyes on either of them. Sad, huh? But here’s the honest truth about me and Larry: we have given that sorrow to the Lord and left it there. We had an absolutely wonderful Christmas.

Tuesday evening I got together with friends, pigged out on pizza, and had fun watching all the little kids running around playing. Wednesday I had lunch with a friend and then Larry and I went to the hospital to visit a cousin. Thursday evening, Larry and I attended a birthday party for a 21-year-old we dearly love.

Friday evening we gathered with the entire Bates crew – probably close to 30 of us – stuffed ourselves with good food, and enjoyed simply being together. Our new great niece got passed around like a football; we read the Christmas story together; and we all had a really good time.

On Saturday we invited some cousins over for Christmas Eve lunch and, that afternoon, we visited with my stepmom at her assisted living cottage across town. On Sunday we had church, followed by lunch at our house with a group of friends we think of as family.

In between all that, we had calls, texts, Facebook messages, and Skype visits with people we love like family who were in Norway, California, Tennessee, Texas, New York, and right around our own community.

Why am I sharing our week with you? First, I want you to see that being without our son and his family hasn’t caused us to hole up and be pitiful and pathetic. Secondly, I want you to see how we can be blood-related to people who are in no way “kin.” How’s that? The blood of Christ binds His family together in love and fellowship. We are so blessed to have a huge family of loved ones through our shared commitment to Jesus. Thirdly, I want you to see that all the company who spent time at our house did so because they were invited.

Loneliness can be heartbreaking, especially during Christmas. But you don’t have to be lonely. Invite people over. So what if you don’t have the nicest or cleanest house on the planet! I don’t, either. So what if you aren’t a great cook? Anybody can bake a pizza or call and order one.

Get involved in the activities at your church. If you don’t have a church home, find one. And consider joining a civic group that meets regularly – a book club, sewing circle, couponing group, etc. There are so many ways to prevent being lonely. Don’t sit home waiting on someone to ring your phone or knock on your door. Actively pursue friendships. God loves you and doesn’t want anyone to feel lonely or left out.

I can’t begin to say how thankful I am for all my blessings. God truly does “comfort the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1b) and put “the lonely in families” IF you’ll let Him. And that doesn't mean sitting around waiting on an invitation or a visit. Take action. Do the inviting.

Copyright © 2016
Judy Woodward Bates


“Jesus… told His disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NLT).

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples and gave them critical marching orders:

“Go.” We are to go out in the world as Jesus’ representatives.

“Make disciples.” We are to spread the Good News and lead others to Jesus.

“Teach.” We’re to be students of the Word so that we know what God expects of us and so that we can show others how He wants us to conduct ourselves.

    And how are we to accomplish so great a task? In His power. “I am with you always.”

    We’re a people on the go. You don’t have to be on a mission trip to talk to other people about Jesus. You’ve been on mission since the day Christ saved you. Your home, your family, your neighborhood, your community, your workplace is your mission field. Wherever you are is your mission field.

    Consciously look for ways to bring your faith into your conversation. If someone sneezes, don’t say, “Bless you.” Say, “God bless you.” If someone asks how you are, don’t tell them your troubles. Tell them, “I’m blessed. Every day Jesus gives me is a blessing.”

    If you knew the cure for cancer, would you withhold it? If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you know the cure for an eternity of torment. Tell somebody.

    Copyright © 2016
    Judy Woodward Bates


    After the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, “…the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! ‘Peace be with you,’ He said. As He spoke, He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!

    One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’

    But he replied, ‘I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in His side.’

    Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. ‘Peace be with you,’ He said. Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and look at My hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!’

    My Lord and my God!’ Thomas exclaimed.

    Then Jesus told him, ‘You believe because you have seen Me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing Me’” (John 20:19-20, 24-29, NLT).

    The resurrected Savior appeared to His disciples and what were His first words to them? “Peace be with you.” The next time Jesus appeared to the disciples, however, Thomas was present. And what were Jesus’ first words? “Peace be with you.”

    Folks, that’s the first thing the Lord wants to give us. His “peace.” His “peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7a). You’ve heard this before, but I hope you’ll read it like you’ve never seen it or heard it before: Know Jesus, know peace; no Jesus, no peace.

    Without Him, we can’t cope with the difficulties of this life. Without Him, we’ll never see eternity in glory. But for those who know Him as Lord and Savior, there is so, so much to look forward to!

    “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. You love Him even though you haven’t seen Him. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls” (First Peter 1:6b, 8a, 9).

    Copyright © 2016
    Judy Woodward Bates


    On the cross, “Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there” (John 19:30b, 38-42, NIV).

    In all the Gospel accounts Joseph of Arimathea is credited with taking care of Jesus’ burial. But haven’t you ever wondered how Joseph managed to singlehandedly carry and prepare Jesus’ body? It was Nicodemus who brought the burial spices – about seventy-five pounds’ worth. Together He and Joseph placed these on the body and wrapped Jesus in the customary linens. Yet John’s Gospel is the only one that even mentions Nicodemus’ involvement – three of the four Gospel writers name Joseph alone.

    While few on earth credit him for his part in Jesus’ burial, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings knows exactly what Nicodemus did as an act of love for His Son.

    Don’t ever think the good you do in Jesus’ name goes unnoticed. Most assuredly it’s being recorded in heaven.

    “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance” (Jesus speaking, Revelation 2:19, NLT).

    Copyright © 2016
    Judy Woodward Bates


    “When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals – one on His right, the other on His left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’

    One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’

    But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.’

    Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise’” (Luke 23:33-34a, 39-43, NIV).

    Jesus’ trial had been an absolute joke. Proper legal procedures hadn’t been followed. Even Pilate had tried to intervene, but the Jewish religious leaders had been determined to get rid of Jesus.

    All four Gospels mention the two thieves or rebels who were crucified on either side of Jesus, but Matthew and Mark tell us a little more about them: Those crucified with Him also heaped insults on Him” (Mark 15:32b).

    Tortured by His crucifiers; mocked by the crowd; and insulted even by the other two men hanging from crosses, He looked at those around Him and said, “Father, forgive them.”

    How could anyone be so selfless? How could anyone be so forgiving? Don’t you know it had to be astounding to watch Jesus’ compassionate attitude toward His tormentors. And it was that loving attitude that led one of those dying thieves to stop the insults and turn to Jesus in repentance: “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.”

    The same guy who, minutes earlier, was flinging insults at Jesus was welcomed into eternity with the Savior. Folks, what Jesus did for that thief on the cross, He did for every single one of us: gave us what we didn’t deserve – His love, His grace, and His mercy.

    Jesus paid the debt we owed and we show our thankfulness by serving Him. What are you doing for Jesus?

    Copyright © 2016
    Judy Woodward Bates


    “Then they arrested Him, led Him away, and brought Him to the high priest’s house. Then they all asked, ‘Are you, then, the Son of God?’ He answered them, ‘You said it – I Am.’”

    “Then the whole crowd got up and took Him to Pilate. They began to accuse Him, ‘We found this man corrupting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He is the Messiah, a king.’

    Then Pilate asked Him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

    He answered, ‘You say so.’

    Then Pilate told the high priests and crowds, ‘I do not find anything chargeable in this man.’

    When he learned… that Jesus came from Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was in Jerusalem at that time. …the high priests and the scribes stood nearby and continued to accuse Him vehemently. Even Herod and his soldiers treated Him with contempt and made fun of Him. He put a magnificent robe on Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate. So Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day. Before this they had been enemies.

    Then Pilate called the high priests, the other leaders, and the people together and told them, ‘…I will punish Him and let Him go.’ …but they continued to shout, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’” (Luke 22:54, 70; 23:1-4, 7, 10-14a, 21, ISV).

    For centuries, the priests, scribes, and elders had been the head honchos in the Jewish community. Now along comes Jesus and begins to not only question their dedication to the Lord, but this Man has the audacity to publicly chastise them and – of all the nerve! – perform miracles of healing even on the Sabbath. They had no intentions of letting this young upstart disrupt their way of life.

    Yes, it was always the Father’s plan for the Son to come and die for the sins of the world. And even though it all happened in God’s timing, the trigger that set His death in motion was jealousy. It completely blinded the religious leaders to the truth about Jesus.

    Jealousy can completely blind you, too. Is there jealousy in your heart? If there is, confess it and let it go.

    Do nothing out of rivalry…” (Philippians 2:3a, HCSB).

    Copyright © 2016
    Judy Woodward Bates


    “Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: ‘You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.’ As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. ‘Rabbi!’ he exclaimed, and gave Him the kiss. Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested Him” (Mark 14:43b-46, NLT).

    Judas had given the group of armed men working for the religious leaders “a prearranged signal” with which he would identify Jesus as the one to arrest: “a kiss.” In Biblical times, kissing the cheeks of a friend was a normal greeting. Paul instructs the believers in the churches to “Greet one another with an holy kiss” (Romans 16:16, First Corinthians 16:20, & Second Corinthians 13:12, KJV). He makes a similar statement in First Thessalonians 5:26 and so does Peter in First Peter 5:14. A kiss of pure Christian love and fellowship was an innocent yet intimate way of expressing the unity of God’s people. And Judas used it to betray our Savior.

    We may not betray Jesus with “a kiss,” but how do we betray Him? When we act one way at church and another outside church. When we treat people with kindness when we’re in a good mood and mistreat them when things aren’t going our way. Anytime when we, as professing Christians, behave in any way that doesn’t honor Jesus.

    Read your Bible and pray every day. Be consistent in these two areas and you’ll see a positive difference in your walk and talk.

    Copyright © 2016
    Judy Woodward Bates


    In John 13 we see the Lord washing His disciples’ feet, right after we read: “the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas… to betray Him” (John 13:2b, HCSB). Knowing Judas’ plan didn’t stop Jesus from loving him, nor did it stop Him from washing Judas’ feet. There’s a huge lesson there for all of us.

    When did Judas decide to betray Jesus? Right after Mark 14:3-9 records Jesus being anointed with a vial of perfume worth an entire year’s wages. Why did this prompt Judas’ decision to betray Jesus? It seems Judas was in it for the money. As John tells us, Judas “…was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it” (John 12:6b).

    Folks, money is a handy thing to have, but a foolish thing to be obsessed with. The stingier you are with it, the harder it’s going to be for you to come by more of it. The more generous you are, the more you’ll be blessed. Financially? Not necessarily. But as the difference between Jesus’ and Judas’ attitudes toward money clearly teach us, there are far more important things to focus on.

    Then Judas Iscariot,  one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to hand Him over to themAnd when they heard this, they were glad and promised to give him silver. So he started looking for a good opportunity to betray Him” (Mark 14:10-11).

    And betray Jesus he did, just as Zechariah foretold hundreds of years beforehand: “So they weighed my wages, 30 pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12b).

    And what did that money do for Judas? Matthew records the answer: “…Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemnedwas full of remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,’ he said. ‘What’s that to us?’ they said. So he threw the silver into the sanctuary and departed” (Matthew 27:3-4a, 5a).

    Judas got what he wanted, yet found out it didn’t satisfy. As Jesus put it, “…what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life?” (Mark 8:36). Nothing is worth betraying Jesus.

    Our priorities in life determine whether or not we’re faithful to Jesus. Our priorities show whether we’re seeking heavenly rewards or earthly ones. People who don’t know Jesus are watching us and forming their opinion of Jesus based on what they see us doing with our lives.

    How does Jesus look through your life?

    Copyright © 2016
    Judy Woodward Bates


    “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching…, preaching…, and healing. He went up on the mountain… and He began teaching them, saying: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and celebrate, because great is your reward in heaven.

    You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its savor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything… You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. …if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. …love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 4:23a, 5:1b-2, 4, 6-7, 9, 11-12a, 13a, 14, 23-24, 44b, Berean Study Bible).

    In one sermon, Jesus teaches a wealth of lessons about what it means to follow Him. He promises comfort to “those who mourn.” He assures those who deeply seek to live by His teachings that “they will be filled” with the strength to do just that. He teaches the invaluable lesson that we will receive mercy according to how we dish out mercy to others. And He tells us that those who truly seek to be “peacemakers” are the real “sons of God.”

    He also reminds us that if we really get serious about serving Him, we’ll be insulted, persecuted, and lied about. And what are we do about that? “Rejoice.” Our reward isn’t here; it’s in heaven.

    And He covers much more in this sermon, including this very important fact: A person who’s truly received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior becomes “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world,” spreading the Good News not temporarily, but for his or her lifetime.

    The last portion I pulled out to look at today is His very serious warning about grudge-holding: don’t do it. No gift – be it money, service, or prayers – is acceptable to God if the person offering them knows that someone harbors hard feelings toward him – or vice versa. Don’t go into Christmas with resentment toward any person. If you can reconcile, do so. If not, give your confession and hurt to the Lord and let it go. Then pray, pray, pray for your own attitude and for the person you’ve had the problem with.

    “…so that your prayers will not be hindered” (I Peter 3:7b).

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. As He walked along, He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow Me and be My disciple,’ Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed Him.

    Later, Levi invited Jesus and His disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does He eat with such scum?’

    When Jesus heard this, He told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners’” (Mark 2:13-17, NLT).

    To Jews, tax collectors were the lowest of the low. This was a Jew who collected taxes from his own people and handed it over to the Roman government, generally after tacking on plenty of extra money for himself. They were despised, and yet Jesus walked up to one of these guys, looked at him with nothing but love, and said, “Follow Me and be My disciple.”

    And what was the response of Levi (a.k.a. Matthew, who wrote the Gospel of Matthew)? He “got up and followed Him.” He didn’t tell Jesus to hang on while he rounded up somebody to fill in for him as tax collector. He didn’t make any excuse or delay in any way. He simply obeyed.

    So often people are doing wrong things because no one has ever told them about the Right One. Especially in America, we think everybody knows who Jesus is and how to become one of His followers. But they don’t. Unless you tell them. Please take a few minutes to watch this video of street interviews: Who do you say Jesus is? Your life is answering that question every day.

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

    When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.’

    Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.’ And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

    When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, ‘Oh, Lord, please leave me – I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.’ For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

    Jesus replied to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!’ And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus” (Luke 5:1-11, NLT).

    I could spend days on this one passage, but I’ll just pull out a couple of things to examine: (1) See how Simon Peter addressed the Lord when Jesus told him to “let down your nets.” He called Him “Master.” Peter showed Jesus respect, but the truth was, Jesus wasn’t in charge of Peter’s life. Peter really didn’t even know Him at that time. All Peter was doing was offering lip service. (2) When Peter, James, and John began to realize who Jesus really was, “they left everything and followed” Him.

    God doesn’t want our lip service. He wants our lives – totally committed, sold out, forever following His leadership. Have you “left everything and followed” Him? If anything in your life is more important than your commitment to Jesus, repent and realign your priorities.

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him (John the Baptist), ‘If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?’

    John told them, ‘I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.’ This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.

    The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.’

    After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy’” (John 1:24-31; Matthew 3:16-17, NLT).

    The apostle John records John the Baptist’s testimony about the baptism of Jesus, as does Matthew (also known as Levi). Jesus realized the importance of baptism. John actually tried to talk Him out of being baptized, saying, I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” (Matthew 3:14b, NASB).

    And what was Jesus’ response? This is the proper way to do everything that God requires of us” (Matthew 3:15b, God’s Word).

    If baptism was important for Jesus, it’s important for every believer. Have you been baptized? It’s often said that baptism is an outward sign or an inward change. Maybe you were baptized before you truly came to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I was. And when I really met Jesus, that was one of the first things I did: went to my pastor and told him I wanted to be baptized as a believer.

    If you need to get that done, what more beautiful time than at Christmas? “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, NIV).

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. ‘Get up!’ the angel said. ‘Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.’

    So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: ‘He will be called a Nazarene’” (Matthew 2:19-23, NLT).

    When the angel first gave Joseph the all-clear notice in Egypt, Joseph planned to return to Bethlehem in Judea. As we read yesterday, the family must have become well established there because they were still in Bethlehem a year or two after Jesus’ birth when the magi showed up.

    Joseph’s plan was changed “when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son.” So what happened? Joseph “was afraid to go” back to Bethlehem, so “he left for the region of Galilee” and “the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth.”

    (It’s important to note that being a Nazarene was different from being a Nazarite. Nazarenes were people from the town of Nazareth. A Nazarite (or Nazirite) was a person who made a specific vow to be set apart for service to God. Usually this was for a specific amount of time and the Nazarite was to abstain from alcoholic beverages; cutting his hair; and going near a dead body. You can read more about this in Numbers 6, Leviticus 7, and Exodus 29. Three lifetime Nazarites are mentioned in the Bible: Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.)

    But back to our passage. Why did Joseph settle on Nazareth? In Luke 1:26b, we read: “God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee.” It was Mary’s hometown and probably not their first choice. After all, how the tongues had to have wagged about Mary’s premarital pregnancy. But this is where they were to go, fulfilling yet another prophecy about the Messiah.

    Nothing in the Bible in any way indicates that serving God will make a person’s life easy. Going back to Nazareth and facing the stares and hearing the whispers had to have been rough on Mary and her family. But that was only the beginning of what Mary was to endure for the sake of her Son and Savior.

    Most Americans have no idea what it means to truly suffer for their faith. I pray all of us know and fulfill what it means to live for our faith.

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    When the wise men came from the East in search of the Newborn King, they went to King Herod and asked him,Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.’

    King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this… Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men… he told them, ‘Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!’

    They (the wise men) entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,’ the angel said. ‘Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’

    That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: ‘I called my Son out of Egypt.’

    Herod… sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A cry was heard in Ramah – weeping and great mourning’” (Matthew 2:2-3a, 7a, 8, 11a, 13-16b-18a, NLT).

    Scripture tells us the wise men “entered the house and saw the child.” Unlike the Christmas scenes we often see, the wise men didn’t show up at the stable when Jesus was born. By the time they reached Bethlehem, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were living in a house and Jesus was no longer a tiny infant, but possibly as much as two years old.

    How do we know this? By Herod’s response to the wise men’s visit: “kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem… two years old and under.” Hundreds of years before Herod ordered this monstrous slaughter, God had foretold it through the prophet Jeremiah.

    And what about Jesus’s time in Egypt? That, too, was prophesied centuries before His birth. In Hosea 11:1, we read: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt” (KJV).

    Born in Bethlehem. Coming out of Egypt. Growing up in Nazareth. Being a Galilean. Only One Man fulfills all these prophecies and hundreds more – the God-Man Jesus Christ. If the Bible says it, it’s true. Share the truth with others.

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived. Then it was time for their purification offering… so his parents took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

    At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, ‘Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.’ Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.

    Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God” (Luke 2:21-22a, 22c, 25-31, 33, 36-38a, NLT).

    How did Simeon know when to show up at the Temple to see Jesus? “…the Spirit led him…” Simeon could have decided he was too old or too tired or too busy to go that day, but he didn’t. Instead, he listened for, heard, and obeyed the Holy Spirit. And because he did, Simeon not only saw the infant Jesus, but actually “took the child in his arms.”

    And then there was Anna. This dear, sweet lady was a prophet who’d dedicated her entire life to worshiping the Lord and, undoubtedly, awaiting the coming of the Messiah. The Temple complex was enormous, yet “She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph” and was also privileged with meeting the Newborn Savior.

    Listening. Hearing. Obeying. This is how Mary and Joseph came to be in the Temple that day. This is how Simeon was able to hold tiny Jesus in his arms. This is how Anna was in the exact spot to meet Jesus.

    Have you met Jesus? If you have, He’s placing opportunities in your pathway every day. Opportunities for what? To know Him more. To serve Him more. To listen, hear, and obey.

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

    And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

    Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

    So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child… The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:1b, 3-17, 20, NIV).

    I’d like you to look back and notice a couple of things. What happened when Jesus was born? Did an angelic choir appear? Did God thunder and speak aloud to Mary and Joseph? Not according to what’s recorded in Scripture. No, it was just Mary and Joseph and a bunch of animals.

    Who got all the “bells and whistles”? The shepherds. They were the ones to whom the heavenly choir appeared. They were the ones to whom the birth of the Savior was announced. Don’t you know that Mary and Joseph were likely wondering what it was all about when they were turned away from the inn, sent out to an animal shelter, and left alone to go through the entire childbirth experience?

    But those obedient shepherds showed up to see the Newborn Babe and affirm to Mary and Joseph that this was no ordinary Child; to let them know that God had sent His own heavenly messengers to announce the Good News. Ordinary shepherds. Ordinary people. Like you and like me. God uses ordinary people. More importantly, God uses obedient ordinary people. I pray every person reading this (and the one who’s writing this) is one of those.

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’

    How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?'

    The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’

    I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered” (Luke 1:26b-28, 31-35, 38a, NIV).

    Mary hadn’t planned on being used in a miraculous way. She hadn’t expected to be visited by an angel. She was simply going about her day-to-day life when the angel Gabriel appeared to her.

    But because her life was pleasing to the Lord, He chose her to be the vessel through whom the Messiah would be born. Can you imagine being entrusted to carry, birth, and bring up the Son of God? What an amazing privilege!

    Every day we see and hear whispers of God all around us. Problem is, we’re often too busy to notice.

    Mary didn’t have time to change her lifestyle or prepare for Gabriel’s announcement in any way. Her daily life made her the perfect choice. Live a life that pleases God. Look for ways to honor Him whether you’re cleaning house, filing papers, frying burgers, or buying groceries. And if you’ll watch and listen, He’s placed amazing opportunities right in front of you. Will you, like Mary, be His willing servant?

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.

    One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple… an angel of the Lord appeared to him… the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God” (Luke 1: 5-7, 8a, 11b, 13, 16, NLT).

    The birth of the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist, was foretold long before John’s birth. In Malachi 3:1, we see this prophecy concerning the coming of John the Baptist: Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts” (KJV).

    In Isaiah 40:3a, we read: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (KJV). Matthew writes this same passage in his Gospel, prefacing it with The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said…” (Matthew 3:3a, NLT).

    No wonder the unborn John recognized the yet-to-be-born Jesus when Mary came to visit her cousin Elizabeth – see Luke 1:41. These two were divinely appointed to usher in the Kingdom. Yes, it was a miracle when the elderly Elizabeth conceived, but she did so through the normal act of procreation with her husband Zechariah. Jesus, on the other hand, was the Greatest Miracle of All, placed by the Holy Spirit into the womb of a virgin.

    Jesus, who “was, and is, and is to come,” (Revelation 4:8b, KJV), was fully God and, at the same time, fully man. Paul explains it this way: Though He was God, …He gave up His divine privileges… and was born as a human being” (Philippians 2:6a, 7a, c, NLT).

    Christ-MAS means “the celebration of Christ.” Every day of a believer’s life should be a celebration of the Savior. Every Christian’s Christmas should center around Jesus. What are you doing to honor Him?

    “He left the splendor of heaven, knowing His destiny…” (“If That Isn’t Love” – words and music by Dottie Rambo)

    Copyright 2016
    Judy Woodward Bates


    “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home. If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own? No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Jesus speaking, Luke 16:9b-13, NLT).

    What’s the purpose of having money? To meet your own needs, to fulfill some of your wants, and “to benefit others.” Most of us have gone so far beyond fulfilling a few wants until every dime we can scrape together goes toward fulfilling another want. And another. And another. Where’s the money to “benefit others”? “We just can’t afford to help right now.” How many times has that statement come out of your mouth? Yes, there are times when you don’t feel led to give, but if you’re listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you know when you’re to give and you know to be obedient. If He says, “Give,” He will meet your every need even if He urges you to give away your whole paycheck. God is faithful.

    But it’s back to what I’ve talked about so many times: positioning. When we aren’t even “faithful in little things,” we certainly aren’t going to “be faithful in large ones.” And when we’re “dishonest” at all, we’re “untrustworthy.” And why should the Creator of Heaven and Earth trust someone who’s “untrustworthy”? The answer is, He won’t.

    God is your Supplier, your Jehovah-Jireh. And if you trust Him to meet your needs, then you trust Him to guide you about giving. You tithe in obedience to His Word and you give offerings above and beyond the tithe because you know you can trust your Provider and you know that your obedience in these areas positions you to be blessed with heavenly abundance. A loaded bank account? Not likely. But an abundance of what you need and the peace that comes only from living to bring honor to the Father.

    Who’s your master – Jesus or money and material things? Whichever you expend the most time and energy on is your real master. Money and stuff won’t last, but the love of the Lord Jesus Christ will carry you right on into eternity.

    If your priorities have gotten a bit mixed up, now’s the time to straighten them out. Tell the Lord you want Him to be the First Love in your life and then follow through with a lifestyle that backs up your commitment. You’re gonna make your Father very proud of you.

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’” (Jesus speaking, Luke 14:28-30, NLT).

    In case you haven’t noticed, life is a very serious project. And we “construct” a great deal of our lives through the choices we make each day. Jesus emphasized the importance of “…count[ing] the cost…” Yet in our society today, that’s something we’re constantly being told not to think about, let alone worry about.

    Sure, you can handle a $900 a month house payment, but for how long are those payments? If you were 35 when you bought the house, do you really want a 30-year mortgage? Do you want to be 65 years old when your house is paid for? Don’t just consider what it’s going to cost you in the present, but also how long it will continue to cost you.

    Which brings us to the major point of Jesus’ statement. What had He said before “…count the cost…”? “If you want to be My disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison – your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be My disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow Me, you cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).

    There is a cost for following Jesus and He says you should realize that up front and weigh your decision carefully. Becoming a Christian isn’t just walking a church aisle or praying a prayer of faith or submitting to believer’s baptism. It’s committing anew EVERY DAY to live for Jesus. It’s committing to, like the “good Samaritan,” put others’ needs ahead of your own. It’s about dying to self so that Christ and Christ alone lives and works in and through you.

    People of today have great difficulty just counting the cost of their financial decisions. What about the cost of unfaithfulness to your spouse? What about the cost of unfaithfulness to your Savior? How many people do you know personally or have seen on TV who were once all about serving the Lord and then one day that’s over – they’re back in the world and giving the impression that living for Jesus is something they can take or leave. No big deal. Doesn’t necessarily have to last. Just a phase they were going through. I pray that none of us reading this today ever gives anyone the idea that living for Jesus is less than a life and death decision, because that’s exactly what it is.

    Before you make any decision, “…count the cost…” Determine for every area of your life to reflect and honor Jesus.

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked Him, ‘Why don’t Your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.’ Then He said, ‘You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others’” (Mark 7:5, 9-13, NLT).

    In Jesus’ time some Jews used a manmade custom called “corban” to avoid providing for their aging parents. An adult child could say any of his money that would be used to care for an elderly parent had instead been dedicated to the Lord, making it unavailable to spend on the parent. No timeframe was set for presenting this money to the Temple, so it was not necessarily ever given, but merely verbally promised in order to slide out of the obligation to care for the parent.

    As Jesus told His listeners, this was “only one example among many others” – places where the Jews “cancel[ed] the word of God in order to hand down [their] own tradition.”

    Churches and individuals need to be careful to adhere to the word of God and not to allow themselves to adhere to anything simply because it’s tradition. “That’s always the way we’ve done it” is not a good reason for doing anything.

    Know why you personally and your church believe what you believe and do what you do.

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with His disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey Him!’” (Matthew 8:23-27, NLT).

    “That evening, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Let’s cross to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus along in a boat just as He was. Other boats were with Him. A violent windstorm came up. The waves were breaking into the boat so that it was quickly filling up. But He was sleeping on a cushion in the back of the boat. So they woke Him up and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t You care that we’re going to die?’ Then He got up, ordered the wind to stop, and said to the sea, ‘Be still, absolutely still!’ The wind stopped blowing, and the sea became very calm. He asked them, ‘Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith yet?’ They were overcome with fear and asked each other, ‘Who is this man? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” (Mark 4:35-41, God’s Word).

    This passage from Mark 4 is one of my favorites. In it Jesus tells His followers, “Let’s cross to the other side.” So here they go, obeying the Lord and what happens? Even with Jesus right there with them, they find themselves in a storm.

    That’s life, folks. Even with Jesus with you, you sometimes find yourself in a storm. But the great thing is you’re not alone – He’s with you. And He’s even placed other believers around you who are going or have gone through tough experiences of their own and can now tell you how the Lord took care of them.

    In today’s passages, we see Jesus calm the storm. Yet in John 6, Mark 6, and Matthew 14 we see Jesus coming to His followers THROUGH the storm. Sometimes our greatest troubles or sorrows are the times when Christ seems the nearest. Why is that? Because these are the times when we’ve given up dependence on all but Him.

    Believers, we’re all headed for “the other side.” Trust Jesus to go with you and take you to your eternal destination.

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Matthew 2 introduces us to the magi, or wise men, who came to worship the Baby Jesus. They had followed a special star in the sky which had led them to Bethlehem, but they went to King Herod to find the exact location of the “newborn king” (Matthew 2:2).

    When the panicked Herod consults the religious leaders and asks where this new king is to be born, they quote from Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.”

    When the magi head for Bethlehem, the star leads them directly to “…the place where the Child was. They entered the house and saw the Child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him” (Matthew 2:9b, 11). Note that the magi enter a house, not a stable, and that they see a Child, not a Baby – it could have been two years or more since Jesus’ birth.

    Next, an angel warns Joseph to take his family to Egypt because Herod is going to slaughter “all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance” (Matthew 2:16b). Herod wanted to make sure that no Child King was going to endanger his reign.

    Matthew 2:14-15 quotes the prophecy from Hosea 11:1: “That night Joseph left for Egypt with the Child and Mary, His mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: ‘I called my Son out of Egypt.’”

    Matthew 2:17-18 includes the Messianic prophecy from Jeremiah 31:15: “Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A cry was heard in Ramah – weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead’” (Matthew 2:17-18).

    When the Lord let the family know that it was safe to return from Egypt, they settled in the town of Nazareth. Luke 2:40 says that …the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on Him.” And then Luke 2 shows the family at the Passover festival in Jerusalem where Mary and Joseph discover the now 12-year-old Jesus is missing from their traveling group:

    “Three days later they finally discovered Him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions” (Luke 2:46). Chastised by Mary and Joseph, Jesus told them, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49b).

    Jesus was born as Man for a foreordained purpose and so were you.

    “For I know the plans I have for you…” (Jeremiah 29:11a).

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Who was Matthew? He was the same person known as Levi who was one of the twelve apostles. In Luke 5:27 and Mark 2:14 we see him identified as a tax collector. When Jesus invited Matthew/Levi to follow him, Luke 5:28 says that he “…got up, left everything, and followed Him.” Without hesitation, Matthew traded what was very likely a financially lucrative life for a life of servanthood.

    Matthew 1 traces Jesus’ lineage through Mary’s husband Joseph, showing that this family connection tracks right through King David. Matthew then tells us of the angel appearing to Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, telling him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).

    We also see in Matthew 1:23 a reminder that Jesus’ birth fulfilled Isaiah 7:14’s prophecy that “The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

    Luke 2:1 tells us that “At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken…” Don’t ever think man is in charge. Augustus ordered a census taken, which necessitated Joseph and his family of Mary and her yet-to-be-born Child traveling to Joseph’s ancestral hometown, Bethlehem, “…because Joseph was a descendant of King David…” (Luke 1:4a). God’s timing is always perfect.

    So the couple traveled from Nazareth (thus, Jesus the Nazarene) of Galilee (He was called a Galilean) to Bethlehem, where the shepherds heard the Good News and came to worship the tiny baby born in a humble manger. And eight days later when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple, Simeon and Anna were able to see and recognize the Holy Infant.

    Eyes of faith. That’s what it’s all about, folks. If we would only see with our spiritual eyes the wondrous things God puts in front of us daily!

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Today we take a look at a bit of John and Luke, with Luke being the only Gentile to write a portion of the New Testament – the books of Luke and Acts. Luke is mentioned in Second Timothy 4:11, Colossians 4:14, and Philemon 1:24 and is identified as a companion of Paul and a physician.

    Luke opens with the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. (Note: John the Baptist didn’t write any of the New Testament books – these were written by the apostle John.) Zechariah, an Aaronic priest and his wife Elizabeth were old and childless; but Zechariah is visited by the angel Gabriel (see Luke 1:19) who says that Zechariah and Elizabeth are going to be parents and that their child “…will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth” and that “He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord” (Luke 1:15b, 17b, NLT).

    “…Even before his birth…” the Lord had a plan for John. Likewise for you, as God proclaims in Jeremiah 29:11a: “For I know the plans I have for you…” And speaking of plans, what a plan He had for the young virgin Mary, as Gabriel appears to her and tells her, “You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32a).

    Only days after the Holy Spirit had placed the baby Jesus within Mary’s womb, she went to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth. “At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her…” (Luke 1:41a). The yet-to-be-born John knew he was in the presence of the Holy One! Two babies, yet to be born, were aware of each other’s presence. Imagine! Two babies – a prophet of God and the Son of God!

    And then we come to John 1, where we see more of the amazing truth about Jesus: “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him” (John 1:1-3).

    If you’re reading this, you’re alive; so guess what? “The Word…,” Jesus Christ, gave you life! Are youusing it to bring Him glory?

    Copyright © 2016

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Ever played “Tug O’ War?” In this game a long thick rope is placed across some kind of dividing line, ditch, body of water, whatever, so that half the rope is on either side of the dividing point. Two teams are assembled and each mans one end of the rope. At a given signal, each team begins trying to pull the opposing team across the line.

    During my early school years, our play time often included a contest of this type. There were usually about thirty kids in my class, so we’d have fifteen kids on each team. Each side would end up with about four boys who had already started their growth spurts. The stronger kids would be placed in lead positions and in “anchor” spots at the end of the rope. Weaker members would be sandwiched in between these mightier individuals.

    The big guys at the front of the rope could anticipate and prepare the team for the other side’s maneuvers and could best withstand the initial forces tugging their team toward a loss. The other big guys at the rear could dig in with all their might and prevent the team from losing ground even when they were unable to gain any.

    So what use were the little people in the middle? Even at eighty pounds apiece, there were enough of us to add considerable strength to our team. And combined with the brawnier team members, we became a powerful force to reckon with.

    A healthy church (corporate body of believers) works the same way. The stronger Christians lead out and dig in, helping weaker Christians to remain anchored in their faith. The mature children of God surround the less mature believers, giving them an opportunity to be an active part of the team – the corporate body of believers – while protecting them until they’ve matured and become capable of taking anchoring or leading positions themselves.

    The day you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you joined the team. What position are you filling today? Can your team members depend on you? Are you giving your very best effort? The children of God are daily embroiled in a tug o’ war with the forces of evil. Join with other believers to encourage and intercede for one another.

    “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (I Corinthians 12:27, NIV).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    In Biblical days, an ox was often used as a source of labor. But did an ox wake up in the mornings and say to itself, “Time to head to the fields,” then promptly begin to hitch itself to the plow and get busy? No, an ox is just not that bright. (No doubt you’ve heard the expression “dumb as an ox.”) The farmer would lead the ox to a location where he could hitch it to the plow or cart or whatever work equipment he would be using it for, and then guide the animal out into the field. Clearly, unless the ox was yoked to the farmer’s equipment, it was no help to the farmer.

    Matthew 11:29 begins with Jesus saying, “Take My yoke upon you” (NASB). Unlike a dumb animal, we may choose whether or not to be yoked as a part of His workforce. But here’s the surprising part: we’re all yoked.

    The Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t force a believer to remain in His “harness” of peace, safety, purpose, and direction. As a human being, though one bought and paid for by His redeeming sacrifice, you can still choose to throw off His yoke at will.

    But when you do, you find that there is already another yoke in place – the yoke of your natural sinful nature. Why do you think Jesus said, “My yoke”? Once you cast aside the yoke of the Lord, a new master steps up to the reins and cruelly leads you in circles of confusion, zig-zagging so that you never seem to be getting anywhere or accomplishing anything.

    Yet all the while he’s accomplishing his highest goal in a believer’s life: he’s moving you farther and farther from the only One Who can put your life back in order. He doesn’t have the power to snatch away a child of God’s security in Christ Jesus, but he can most assuredly make their earthly existence miserable and without fruit for the Kingdom of God.

    In Matthew 11:29 what did Jesus say was the purpose of putting on His yoke? “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me” (NASB). Jesus Christ wants you to be like Him, and He stands ready to lead you and teach you. He’ll be the gentle Master Who will lovingly guide you to do His work and walk with you every step of the way.

    Is your life spinning out of control? Check your yoke.

    “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me… for My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-29a, 30).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Most people are familiar with these first four books of the New Testament known as the Four Gospels. These men were divinely inspired to write their accounts of the Gospel, or Good News, of Jesus’ life on this earth.

    But did Jesus’ life end when He left this earth? No more than it began when He was born a tiny baby. Jesus Christ “was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8b, NIV). His life had no beginning and will have no end. As Jesus Himself put it, “before Abraham was even born, I Am!” (John 8:58b, NLT). This Jesus left this earth and returned to His Father in heaven to “prepare a place” (John 14:3a, ESV) for those of us who have trusted Him as personal Lord and Savior.

    If you’re still here, you’re still on mission for the Lord Jesus Christ. Our former pastor once said, “There must be FIVE Gospels in your life: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and YOURS. Every day you write a part of your Gospel. What does your Gospel say?”

    Whether you acknowledge it or not, whether you like it or not, your life is truly the fifth Gospel. Every thought, word, and deed is being recorded not only in heaven but in the observations of those around you who know you profess to be a child of God.

    Go ahead right now and put your name on that fifth Gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, [YOU]. How’s your present chapter looking?

    “For I am the least of the apostles… But by the grace of God I am what I am” (I Corinthians 15:9a, 10a, NIV).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    God bestowed many gifts and talents and abilities on His children. Why? To build up His kingdom. If you have great mechanical ability, why not use it to help with the maintenance of machinery, vehicles or other equipment around your church?

    Are you an electrician? I know of very few churches that don’t use electricity. Perhaps your church is in need of someone to help with that sort of maintenance.

    Do you have a desire to sing God’s praises? Note I didn’t ask how “good” you could sing. If in your heart you want to praise the Lord through singing, join the choir; lead out in congregational singing – let Him know you love to glorify His Name in this way.

    Maybe you have other musical talent: you play piano, organ, drums, violin. If your church has an orchestra or other musical instrument ensemble, get involved – or get an orchestra started.

    Do you enjoy being with children? Although we’re all quick to say that the church’s future is in the children of today, there’s always a shortage of people willing to work with children.

    There are endless areas where your talents and abilities can be used to honor the Lord, and of course, all these are not within the confines of a church building or even a church-led ministry. You, as a child of God, are to be His minister, His messenger – at work, home, shopping, leisure, wherever you are.

    The work of the Lord is YOUR responsibility and privilege. Whatever your gifts and talents, whatever your abilities, God has endowed you with these so you may serve Him and bless others: writing, acting, painting, carpentry, cooking, sewing, EVERY ability.

    A dear pastor and friend once preached a sermon on “Everyone Is Called.” Afterwards a lady told him that she had enjoyed the sermon and that it had affirmed to her what she already knew: that her calling was to be in the same spot on the same pew every time the church doors were open. My pastor friend felt she had voiced what many people believed: that service to the Lord was showing up for church. The next Sunday his sermon was titled, “We’re Called to Take a STAND, not a SEAT.”

    Good advice for all of us, I’d say. An old country song says, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” Are you standing for Jesus? Find your place of service in His kingdom.

    “…for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2, KJV).

    “…for by faith ye stand” (I Corinthians 1:24, KJV).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Accepting the death of a loved one is one of the most difficult things we humans have to cope with. Even as Christians who know that a believing spouse or child or parent or friend has gone on to be with the Lord, learning to go on without that person’s earthly presence can be devastating. People who’ve experienced these types of losses need to know that the family of God is with them to help them work through the grieving process and to simply offer a shoulder to cry or lean on.

    But there’s another group who often misses out on the support they also desperately need. These are the people who have “lost” a loved one in another sense: divorce. Sometimes a husband or wife leaves a marriage not by death but by choice. When this happens, the pain is much like that of one who has experienced the physical death of a spouse; but coupled with that grief is the knowledge that this mate left of his or her own volition.

    And what about the person whose adult child, like my own, suddenly decides to sever his relationship with his parents and entire extended family? The realization that this “loss” was by the child’s own choosing can drain from a parent the very will to live. In other instances it’s the parent who decides to cut the relationship with the child. This, too, can leave the strongest person feeling utterly helpless.

    Friends sometimes end relationships for no apparent reason. Someone who has been the closest of friends with another person begins to see her phone calls not being returned and invitations to get together met with lame excuses.

    There are many situations where a person has “lost” a loved one without a physical death having occurred. We need to be sensitive to the pain of those who are coping with these types of losses. You probably won’t have to look beyond your immediate circle of co-workers, family, and church members to find several people who fit one of the loss categories I’ve mentioned. Take on the servant attitude of Jesus and look for ways to comfort and encourage these people.

    Maybe you’re one who has recently experienced a loss. First, surrender your hurt to the Lord. Be honest with Him and tell Him that you don’t understand; that you’re in pain. Ask Him for His peace and trust Him to give it to you. And ask Him as often as you need to – He never tires of His children seeking His comfort. Secondly, ask the Lord to give you a ministry. One of the best ways to heal your own hurts is to become involved in helping someone else.

    “…not to be ministered unto, but to minister…” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 20:28, KJV).

    “If anyone… sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (I John 3:17, NIV).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    During the 1980s I attended a women’s retreat with a number of other ladies from my church. To me, the entire program seemed Holy Spirit-inspired and His presence was as tangible as the chair I was seated in. It was during this time that the Lord confirmed what I felt in my spirit: I would one day be speaking before audiences.

    When God confirmed this, the clarity was such that there was no room for doubt. How did He do this? I can only say that, as I listened to the retreat leader, I KNEW that I would some day be doing what she was doing. I felt so strongly about this that when we had an opportunity to get up and share the things that were on our hearts, I stood and told the other women what the Lord had impressed upon me.

    And they all gathered around and affirmed me, right? Wrong. When I sat down, virtually no one said a word. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember those commercials where an entire room becomes suddenly silent at the mention of E. F. Hutton? That’s what happened in that room that day. Afterwards, one lady came to me with a word of encouragement.

    You see, I had never been a leader in our church. The closest thing I’d done was to teach Bible study classes, and at that time all my classes had been youth or college and career. I think the general consensus was, “No way the Lord would use HER when there are so many better qualified ladies all over this room.”

    Yet I began to receive invitations to speak all over the place, didn’t I? Hardly. Almost ten years went by and nothing happened. At least nothing that I realized at the time. During the following years, I began to teach co-ed and women’s classes. Too, many difficult situations came along that caused me to seek the Lord more faithfully and more deeply. My mom and several other family members were diagnosed with terminal illnesses. A lot of tough things came my way.

    And through all this I unknowingly was being prepared for exactly what He would have me to do. Most importantly He was maturing me so that I would have sense enough to take no credit for what was entirely His hand’s work.

    Is God calling you to do something for His glory? Pray, seek Him, trust Him with all your heart, and know that His timing is always perfect. If you’re like me, your biggest problem will be not forcing an opportunity to come about. Wait on the Lord.

    If you’re coming from the opposite personality, don’t let fear stop you from doing what God has called you to do. When God opens a door, it’s for a specific person and time. And when He does this, His hand will be unmistakably clear. Has He already opened a door for you? Walk through it NOW – He won’t leave it propped open.

    “…there is a time for everything…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    This is no re-run. We’re looking at the same passage again: “…a time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them…” (Ecclesiastes 3:5, NIV).

    Yesterday we looked at gathering stones. Hopefully we all did a bit of self-evaluation to be certain we haven’t tried to stretch the boundaries God’s teachings have put in place for His children’s well-being. God-made boundaries are not to be moved; to try to do so is to put yourself and those around you in a precarious position.

    But what about manmade boundaries? Do you feel CONFINED or CONTENT? If you answered CONFINED, could be that you have allowed manmade boundaries to put a stranglehold on your joy, your peace, and your potential.

    Philippians 4:13 clearly tells us that we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens” us (NIV). What are you NOT capable of doing? Nothing – if what you’re doing is God’s perfect will for your life. When you’re seeking after the things of God, your Heavenly Father will work through you to do incredible things!

    So what are these manmade boundaries I’m referring to? “I’m not smart enough.” “Meeting new people makes me nervous.” Manmade boundaries can be summed up quite easily in one verse, Ephesians 6:12: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood” (KJV).

    Believer, who wants you to live in less than victory? Who wants you to feel incapable, defeated, unworthy? What one force is capable of deceiving you into believing God’s boundaries are constricting your life? Satan alone desires for you to feel stifled, suffocated, by the boundaries of God’s will. Don’t buy what that liar is selling! It’s time to rebuke him boldly in the name of Jesus and get those phony boundaries out of your life!

    Child of God, you are worthy. You are loved. You are precious in the sight of your Father. Jesus paid your sin-debt and covered you in His blood. Because of this, your Father sees you as spotless – a pure and holy messenger of His wonderful Good News.

    So, you ready to scatter those false boundaries? Claim your victory today and experience the freedom of Kingdom living.

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “…a time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them…” (Ecclesiastes 3:5, NIV).

    In Biblical days stones were used for a variety of purposes, one of which was as boundary markers. In thinking about boundaries, though, think about not only manmade boundaries, but also God-made boundaries. The Ten Commandments, for example, were boundaries which God set for His people. Today we not only have the written Word, but we have the Living Word indwelling us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. He instills boundaries within our lives that, if we take heed, keep us from wandering into sin and hurting our Father, ourselves, and others.

    We as believers belong to Jesus Christ (First Corinthians 6:19b-20a) and therefore are obligated to live within the boundaries His teachings have established. When we attempt to “fudge” these boundaries, we are both foolish and dishonest. “Oh, what’s it going to hurt just this once? It’s not like I’m going to keep on. I’m going to stop soon, I promise.”

    God’s boundary stone (note the singular) is the Solid Rock of Ages and He is immovable, folks. If you think He will ignore your sin or make an exception for you, you’re wrong. Christian, if you continue to live in disobedience, your Heavenly Father will deal with you in the here and now. He’s a patient, loving God, but He will never allow one of His children to go undisciplined.

    And if you don’t know Him as Lord and Savior, you’re at great risk of being dead wrong, which means without sincere repentance you’ll be paying for all eternity. “What sin?” you ask. Rejecting the free gift of salvation available only through God’s Only Son. This is the one and only sin that will cost you eternal separation from the Father.

    God didn’t put His boundaries in place in order to take away our fun. Just as a parent might put a fence around his yard to give his toddler a place of safety, so our Father places His divine boundary markers so we can remain safely within His fold.

    Whenever a child of God goes astray, the Holy Spirit stirs that believer’s heart, bringing conviction concerning the sin in his life. Think about the boundaries in your own life. Are they God-made or have you attempted to “fudge” beyond His markers? Might be it’s time for you to embrace God’s boundaries again.

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    In preparation for the time when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God gave them the Ten Commandments as we read in Exodus 20:

    1. Do not worship other gods.
    2. Do not worship idols.
    3. Do not misuse God’s name.
    4. Keep the Sabbath holy.
    5. Honor your father and mother.
    6. Do not murder.
    7. Do not commit adultery.
    8. Do not steal.
    9. Do not lie.
    10. Do not covet.

    Of course, this wasn’t all God had to say to them at the time; the rest of Exodus 20 through Exodus 23:19 contains further instructions from the Lord which are known as the “Book of the Covenant.” We read in Exodus 24:7: “Then he (Moses) took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people” (NIV).

    But here’s what I want us to look at concerning all this: at what point were the Commandments given? AFTER the Lord had saved the Israelites from their Egyptian captors. The sign of the firstborn had already been given. Neither receiving the law nor obeying the law brought salvation to the people of Israel any more than it can do that for us today. They needed a Savior. We need a Savior.

    In the New Testament, Peter says of the redeemed: “…you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession” (I Peter 2:9b, NLT). Peter was quoting from the very words the Lord had spoken in Exodus 19:6 to Moses concerning Israel – BEFORE He had given them the Commandments.

    So are the Commandments even relevant today? Well, let’s see. How did Jesus put it? “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17, ESV).

    Jesus, as fully God yet fully man, was and is the only Person to have ever perfectly kept the Commandments (“the Law”). In doing so, He showed us the importance of not only obeying the Law, but of going beyond the written letter of the law and maintaining purity of intent. In other words, we’re to be clean inside and out. How? By focusing on the things of God.

    May this Thanksgiving be much more than food and fellowship for you. May it be a time of reflection on the goodness, provision, grace, and mercy of the Savior.

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    A lady once told me that she had registered for a grocery store’s drawing for a new car and that she was claiming and believing that the Lord was going to make her the winner. Now bear in mind I have no problem whatsoever with the Lord providing for His children in miraculous ways – I’m just not real sure that He’d use a raffle to do it! Anyway, this woman’s husband had an adequate vehicle to drive back and forth to work; she had a decent, albeit older, model car to run errands in; she had no small children or anyone else to care for at home; she was in good physical health; and she didn’t work outside the home.

    My response to her “statement of faith” was that if she wanted a better car, she should put the feet on her prayers and get out and work for one. The Lord never promised or desired for us to have a free ride – literally or figuratively. As long as we’re able to do so, He expects us to do our part to care for ourselves.

    But what about the needs and wants of others? Let’s say you’re praying for Ellen to find a better a job. You know she’s struggling financially. Perhaps God wants you to put the feet on those prayers and put in a good word about Ellen with your own employer. Or has God blessed you with enough to meet all your own needs just so you can now start meeting all your own wants? If you’ll listen, He may be directing you to get off your wallet and lend a helping hand to Ellen.

    Or let’s say you’re praying for Joe’s salvation. What feet have you put on those prayers? How many times have you reached out to Joe? How many times have you been willing to tell him about your Savior? Too often we piously pray for the redemption of others without taking any other step to see our prayers come to fruition. What if Joe were YOUR husband? YOUR brother? Maybe he is. Put the feet on your prayers and let those you are praying for know your concern and love for them. Most importantly, tell them how much Jesus loves them.

    “As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:15a, NIV).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Obadiah was one of the Old Testament prophets. You’ll find his book among those known as the writings of the minor prophets. Why minor? Certainly not because of the insignificance of their ministries. Those referred to as “minor” prophets are simply the writers of shorter manuscripts than those such as Isaiah or Jeremiah.

    Tucked away in the twenty-one verses of the book of Obadiah you’ll find a great deal of wisdom and, like all of the Word of God, these Holy Spirit-inspired words are as valuable today as when Obadiah first penned them:

    “As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” (verse 15b, NIV).

    What kind of seeds are you sowing with your life? Are your deeds such that you look forward to or dread the “return” on your investment?

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV).

    What a marvelous God we serve! He became a man so He could know exactly what it was like to live as one of us. And then, even after living among us and seeing us as we truly are – despicable, unworthy, and vile – He through His death and resurrection became the bridge that opened the Holy of Holies. His substitutionary act gave every believer direct access to the very throne of God. Jesus Christ became our One High Priest.

    So what do we find at the throne of God? First, we find that it is a throne of grace. God’s unmerited favor is poured out on those who have accepted Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. Second, we see that at the throne there is mercy, the loving compassionate forgiveness of the Father. And third, we see that at the throne there is “help in time of need.”

    All those blessings in one verse of His Living Word. And we’re not finished yet. Neither did He leave us to beg and grovel our way to the throne. Through His shed blood we have become the children of God with the amazing privilege of coming “boldly” to Him. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John” (Revelation 1:1, NIV).

    If the revelation given to John was to take place “soon,” what’s going on? Could it mean that the Bible is in error?

    No way! And if you read this in the originally language you’ll have a better understanding of that verse. The word “soon” was translated from the Greek word “tachi,” from which we formed the word “tachometer,” for example.

    What that text means is that when these events begin to take place, they will occur with great speed. In other words, once God calls “It’s time,” He will waste no time fulfilling that which He has given us hundreds and hundreds of years to prepare for. It will all begin to occur in rapid succession.

    And when Jesus Christ splits the eastern sky and gathers His bride, the church – those who have repented and received Him as Lord and Savior – it will take place in such a split second of time that there will be no opportunity for the unsaved to make things right. They, like the people of Noah’s day, will have missed the boat.

    If Jesus called out His bride right this second, do you KNOW He’d be coming for you?

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    One father had become resentful and bitter toward his son. It seemed that every time the young man came home for a visit, it was, “Dad, can you lend me a hundred dollars? I’ll pay you back next time I’m here.” Or, “Dad, I’m pretty much tapped out right now. Can you handle paying for all this?” It seemed there was no end to the son’s demands. What made it even worse was that the father had not once heard the boy express gratitude except in a flippant sort of way. “Good man, Pop,” he would say as he patted his shoulder and made his exit.

    Then one day the son came for a visit, unpacked and sat down to watch a fishing show on television with his dad. A little later he got up, went into the kitchen and prepared trays of sandwiches, chips and drinks. When they had finished eating, the young man took the trays, returned them to the kitchen and cleaned away the debris.

    As his son returned to his seat on the sofa, the father could stand it no longer. “What is it this time?” he growled, leaning up and pulling his wallet from his pants. “Fifty? A hundred? Must be serious to warrant all this!”

    Tears filled the son’s eyes as he saw and heard his father’s pain. “Pop, this past week I gave my life to Jesus Christ. I don’t want anything, honest. I just want to spend time with you.”

    Can you imagine that father’s joy? We as Christians need to be mindful of others, especially the parents God gave us. But we also need to be mindful of our Heavenly Father. Remember, He knows what it’s like to be One of us. And as the perfect Father, He desires fellowship with His children for no other reason than to spend time together.

    Don’t just go to your Father with your hand out. Spend time with Him simply for the joy of His presence.

    “In Your presence is fullness of joy…” (Psalm 16:11b, NASB).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    The father stood in the kitchen and watched his adult son polish off the remains of a can of beer. “I know you’re an adult, but I really think you need to stay home tonight,” the father told the son.

    “Didn’t nobody ask you what you think,” the son snapped. He grabbed the keys from the kitchen counter. “Don’t wait up,” he snarled, banging the door behind him.

    The next evening wasn’t much different. “Son, I thought we could go grab a bite to eat down at the diner. Whatta you say?”

    “I don’t think so. I got stuff to do.” The door banged shut and the father stood alone watching his son drive away.

    “I care about you. I don’t want you to do that.” That’s what the father was saying. “I care about you. Spend time with me.” That was all he wanted.

    Child of God, when you don’t spend time with the Father, it’s all too easy to live in willful disobedience. It’s all too easy to find yourself getting deeper and deeper into territory you should never have walked into. Just like the father in this scenario, God will warn you, but He’ll let you walk away. He’ll never force you to obey Him or respect Him.

    By the same token, it’s impossible to continue in willful disobedience when you ARE spending time with the Father. Are your actions speaking louder than your words? You don’t have to ask the Father what He thinks. If you’re His child, you already know exactly how He feels about your lifestyle.

    “And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3, NIV).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    I was completely blown away when I recently read the John 13:1-17 account of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. It’s amazing how the Word truly is alive and how the Holy Spirit reveals more and more insights each time you read a passage. I hope you’ll take your Bibles and study this entire account.

    As Jesus went around the room washing each of the disciple’s feet, Peter protested the Lord stooping to such a lowly task. Jesus replied to him by saying, “…unless I wash you, you have no part in Me” (Verse 8, NIV). Jesus, as always, was teaching His followers lessons with meanings they would become increasingly aware of after Jesus had gone to the cross.

    If you look over in Matthew 23:25-26 you’ll see a very pointed statement Jesus made as part of seven “woes” He spoke against the Pharisees. The disciples were present. They had witnessed Him saying, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (NIV).

    Now think about whose feet Jesus was washing and prepare to be blown away like I was: right along with the rest of the disciples, He washed the feet of Judas. The Lord knew who His true disciples were and yet He lovingly continued to call to Judas, and to remind the others that inward cleanliness – cleanliness of the mind and heart and spirit – were marks of a true believer.

    Does your inward cleanliness match your outward appearance?

    Suggested further reading: Acts 22:30-23:3; Ezekiel 13:10-16; Matthew 23

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “Who do you think you are?” Ever had anyone ask you that? Undoubtedly the tone of this question is intended to put you in your place, to let you know that the speaker considers you beneath him, that you’re trying to step beyond your bounds.

    If you’ve ever been asked that question, don’t think you’re alone. In John 8:53b the Jews spat that very question at Jesus: “Who do you think you are?” (God’s Word). Can you imagine – they asked this question of the very Son of God!

    And Jesus answered them by saying: “I can guarantee this truth: Before Abraham was ever born, I am” (John 8:58, God’s Word).

    You see, Jesus was well aware of Who He was. He knew that He was doing His Father’s will no matter how many people ridiculed or scorned Him.

    If you’ve sought the Holy Spirit’s guidance and fervently prayed about your life’s direction, then rest assured that the Lord is faithfully guiding you. Don’t let anyone or anything discourage you or turn you from the path the Father has laid out before you. Walk victoriously in the knowledge of who you are: a child of the King and a man or woman on a mission!

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Are you a grudge-holder? I had a relative who often said, “I’ll forgive it, but I’ll never forget it.” Now how’s that for forgiveness? Certainly when we’re hurt or wronged by someone, it can be extremely difficult to forget what was done or said. But in order to truly forgive, we have to forgive with an attitude of letting go of the past.

    See, we’re supposed to, albeit imperfectly, do as our Father does. No, you may never be able to completely wipe away the hurtful incident, but you CAN refuse to dwell on it, and you can ask the Lord to take away your recollection of it.

    Which brings us to the point of today’s passage. How do you pray for your friends? Do you pray for them as you would for yourself or your own family members? Do you pray for those friends who have hurt you in the past, maybe even in the recent past?

    Of all the people in the Old Testament Job is the one whose tragedy-filled life is recorded in detail. Job clung to his faith even as he lost his children and his wealth. He clung to his faith even as his friends insisted that he should ‘fess up because there was no way all these bad things could be happening to him unless he was a sinful man.

    So what happened to Job in the end? He repented. There are a number of viewpoints as to what it was he repented of, but most scholars believe Job was repenting of his refusing-to-budge attitude in insisting that he had done no wrong – pride in his “sinless” lifestyle may have been his sin. Too, he was surely very unhappy with his friends who had been less than supportive during his time of trial; so I would imagine Job also repented of any resentment he may have felt toward them.

    Maybe you harbor some animosity toward someone you feel has wronged you. Perhaps this person is even a close friend who has no idea there’s even a problem between you. Let go of your grudge. Give it to God and repent. After all, He forgives AND forgets your repented sins, doesn’t He?

    And what was the result of Job’s repentance? Job 42:10a says: AFTER Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again” (NLT). 

    Just as God’s forgiveness is critical, so is our forgiveness of others. Without forgiving others, we can never know an unhindered relationship with the Father. Let go of your grudges and see the blessings of Jesus Christ poured out in your life.

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Where do you get your beliefs? From your parents? Your pastor? Your Bible study teacher? Who?

    All of us need to continually study the Word of God for ourselves no matter how much training and teaching we’re receiving from other sources. Why is this so important? Unless we’re knowledgeable as to what the Scriptures have to say, it’s far too easy to be misled by people who may intentionally or unintentionally provide us with errant information.

    Paul knew there would always be people who had their own agendas in mind and would try to subvert the Word of God in order to gain support for their own viewpoints. Paul warned the elders of the church in Ephesus of this very thing: Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following” (Acts 20:30, NLT).

    I thank God every day for the number of people He allows me to touch through these daily website, Twitter, and Facebook messages – only God could make this possible. But don’t ever take my word or anyone else’s as the final authority on any matter concerning Jesus Christ. Read and study the Bible first and foremost. How else will you know if something you read or something someone says is off-base?

    How urgent was this matter to Paul? He didn’t just tell the Ephesian elders to “watch out!” He said: “Remember the three years I was with you – my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you” (Acts 20:31, NLT). I’d say this was a critical matter in Paul’s eyes, wouldn’t you? Make it priority in your own life, too.

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    While watching a TV show, I learned a common method for capturing one type of monkey. A hollow log is drilled with holes just large enough for the monkeys to get their hands through. Then coconuts, their favorite food, are placed inside the log. The ends of the log are sealed and the log isthen placed in an area where the monkeys live.

    The little critters soon spot the log and become curious about it. When they explore a little closer, they smell the tantalizing aroma of coconuts. They peek into the holes and see treasure. Reaching into the very small holes, they clutch the coconuts and begin to tug and bang against the log, trying their best to extract these huge treats through these tiny holes.

    The hunter then walks up to the monkeys, a capture bag in hand. The monkeys, seeing the hunter coming, increase their frantic but futile attempts to pull the coconuts through the openings. The hunter calmly, one by one, grabs the monkeys and stuffs them into the capture bag.

    The monkeys knew the danger of the hunter approaching. The monkeys could have easily scampered up a tree and escaped. But they stayed in their dangerously vulnerable positions. How could the hunter just walk right up and take the monkeys captive? Because they refused to let go of the coconuts.

    Don’t miss this, folks. Those monkeys are a lot like us. Sometimes we suspect the danger, smell the danger, then see the danger; yet like the foolish monkeys, we want to hold on just a little longer. This is how Satan so easily entraps us.

    Are you holding onto something that you should let go of? NOTHING, no temporal pleasure, no worldly gain, is worth being ensnared in evil. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you examine your own heart today.

    “…lest the people be ensnared” (Job 34:30, KJV).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    While visiting a church away from home, my husband and I listened as the pastor talked about his college-age son. When he was only a toddler a serious illness afflicted him. Fever raged through his body and caused him to lapse into a non-responsive state, or coma. Doctors gave the child little hope, but miracle of miracles, he awoke without brain damage or many of the feared effects of the fever. But not every fear was alleviated. It was soon apparent that the child had become completely deaf.

    The family went through all the usual “whys” as their son learned to adjust to his non-hearing world and as they learned to communicate with a child who could no longer hear their voices or enjoy the simple sound of laughter. All this was lost to their beautiful child. But at least their child was still with them.

    “But why MY son?” the pastor posed the question. “We were serving the Lord, doing what He wanted us to do. Why did He allow this?”

    The son grew and became a strong believer in Jesus Christ. He participated in youth meetings and mission trips around the world. Everywhere he went he was able to shine with the love of Jesus. He showed the world that his disability was simply a new-found ABILITY when he surrendered it to the Lordship of Christ. Because of his witness, a deaf church was begun in one country, a deaf ministry in another place, and on and on the work of the Lord expanded because of this one young man.

    This son, this entire family, became excited about what God was doing! The pastor concluded by saying, “Can you imagine! The next voice my son will clearly hear will be the Lord Jesus, saying, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant!’ Now that’s worth waiting for!”

    Maybe you consider your shyness or your lack of education a disability. Perhaps you have a physical impairment. Whatever your disability, placing it in God’s hands will transform it into an ABILITY that He can use for His glory.

    “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God… He upholds the cause of the oppressed and… sets prisoners free,… gives sight to the blind,… lifts up those who are bowed down...” (Psalm 146:5,7-8, NIV).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Why am I here? Is there really a higher purpose for my life? Have you ever asked yourself those questions? If so, the Word of God has Good News for you!

    In Psalm 138:8a we read: “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me” (ESV). Look at those eight words and you’ll see a world of encouragement within them:

    • The Lord of Lords and King of Kings is personally interested in YOU.
    • Not only is He interested in you, but He has a SPECIFIC PURPOSE for your life.
    • Unless your life is centered in the Lord Jesus Christ, YOU will never fulfill your reason for existence.
    • “Fulfill” means just what it implies: FILLED FULL. If your life seems empty, you’re not fulfilling your purpose for being here.
    • In your weakness God is truly shown to be strong. What you can’t do, He CAN – THROUGH YOU. If you’re committed to Christ, His Holy Spirit will work through your life to achieve that for which you were created and called.

    The Christian life is an exciting life, a Spirit-led life, a purposeful life. If you’re not fully surrendered to the leadership and Lordship of Jesus Christ, you’re missing out on the greatest adventure this world – and the next – can offer.

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates 


    Did you know that the book of Acts contains a formula guaranteed to bring a believer peace, strength, encouragement, and spiritual growth? Could you use a little of all that?

    This formula is found in Acts 9:31. It says that the believers: “…enjoyed a time of peace. [They were] strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, [and] grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord” (NIV).

    These Christians were enjoying all sorts of blessings because they were “living in the FEAR of the Lord!” What exactly does that mean? Simply put, it means to live in reverential awe of the Creator of the Universe. As usual, though, my best explanation is through example.

    Growing up, I can’t recall my father dishing out a whole lot of punishment, yet I knew that I should do what he told me to. My father loved me and treated me with respect. He taught me his values and principles. In turn, I learned to love and respect him and I never wanted to do anything to hurt or disappoint him.

    Surely if an earthly father deserves that kind of respect, a perfect Heavenly Father deserves far more. Yes, God is loving; but He’s also One Who will discipline His children for their own edification. When we ignore God’s laws and live as though He’s going to gently turn His head and pretend like He didn’t see us do anything wrong, we’re setting ourselves up for a fall. Satan is such a subtle deceiver. Once we allow even the smallest of sins to take root in our lives, he’ll water it and fix it in place – and quickly make room for even more.

    The only way to avoid getting caught in this trap is to live in reverential fear of the Lord. And when you do, you’ll find that the very things your spirit desires most – peace, strength, encouragement – will grow more plentiful in your life.

    Do you have peace? Are you strong in your faith? Do you feel the daily and moment-by-moment encouragement of the Holy Spirit? Are you growing in your faith? If you can’t answer YES to all of these questions, stop right now and ask yourself why not. Can you honestly say that in every way you live your life in respect of your Father’s teachings?

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    If you look in the book of Exodus you see Moses as God speaks to him through the burning bush experience. As God tells him what He’s called him to do, Moses, even after being shown incredible wonders like his own staff being transformed into a snake, is still fearful of taking his place of service: “Moses pleaded with the Lord, ‘O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though You have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled’” (Exodus 4:10, NLT).

    Moses had a list of excuses for why he couldn’t possibly be the one to lead God’s people out of captivity. And think back to Moses’ earlier days in Egypt. 

    After seeing an Egyptian mistreating a fellow Hebrew, he’d murdered the Egyptian and run away. In Moses’ mind clearly there was someone with far less marks against him who would be much better qualified to take on such an awesome responsibility.

    But look over in the book of Acts and see what Luke had to say about Moses: “Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22, NASB).

    Was Moses simply making excuses when he told the Lord how poorly qualified he was? I don’t think so. I believe Moses was only human and didn’t give himself credit for the abilities, talents and gifts he possessed. And once Moses entrusted those abilities, talents and gifts to the Lord, God was able to use him in ways Moses had never even dreamed of.

    When God calls, He equips. Listen for His voice, and when He speaks to you, trust Him. Obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting and see the Lord use YOU in ways you’ve never even imagined.

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Yesterday we continued with the subject of having the courage to do what you feel God calling you to do. Perhaps you’ve already heard the Lord directing you to do something out of your usual realm. Let me encourage you to listen to His leading.

    In Acts 8 Philip may have really wondered what the Lord was asking of him. As the church in Jerusalem began to suffer greater persecution, the believers spread to other areas, taking with them the Good News of Jesus Christ. Philip went to Samaria and preached the message of the Gospel. There he was gladly received by a people who were hungry for the message of the Messiah.

    Then the Lord directs Philip out into the desert to a road that ran from Jerusalem to Gaza. Here he was in Samaria having an incredibly successful ministry and, right in the midst of it all, the Holy Spirit directs him to leave and go to a desert place. Don’t you know Philip had to be wondering why he’d been sent off like that?

    But Philip obeys the Spirit and, once in the desert, is told: “go to that chariot and stay near it” (Acts 8:29, NIV). There the official in charge of Queen Candace of Ethiopia's treasury was riding along reading the writings of the prophet Isaiah. When Philip realized this, he offered to explain these prophesies to the man. Philip’s obedience to the Holy Spirit gave him the opportunity to win the official to Christ, thereby spreading the Good News to the household of the ruler of Ethiopia.

    Maybe you’re already involved in an active ministry. Wonderful! But don’t let a successful ministry stop you from hearing and obeying the Holy Spirit should He begin to lead you in a new direction. No matter how well things are going right now, if God is pointing you elsewhere, rest assured He has even greater things in store.

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Have you ever had an idea for a mission or ministry? Did you act on it? If not, why didn’t you?

    So often we’re fearful that our ideas are not of God. Let’s look at that for just a minute. How many powers are at work in this world? Two – God’s unlimited eternal power and the limited temporary power allowed Satan.

    Would an evil being implant an idea that would bless others? No!

    Don’t allow fear of failure or rejection to stop you from taking the steps of faith necessary to present or implement your ideas. In Acts 5 we read where Peter and some of the other believers were jailed because of their preaching of Jesus. An angel released them and told them to go back to the temple courts and continue preaching. The believers did just that, and were promptly brought before the Sanhedrin.

    In the midst of the chaos that ensued, a Pharisee named Gamaliel stood before the tribunal and made a statement that was so profound that it was preserved within the Word of God so that believers throughout the coming generations would be able to read it. He said, “I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39, NIV).

    Do you believe God is calling you to a work? Do you believe He is leading you to present an idea for a new program or ministry for your church? Fast, pray, seek Him with all your heart. Just as Gamaliel said, if God is leading in this, it CANNOT fail. Step out in faith and go for it!

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Has the Lord ever done anything incredible in your life? If He’s saved you and brought you into His eternal Kingdom, He most certainly has! Every day we receive countless blessings, divine protection, untold touches of the Lord’s love, yet we rarely even notice.

    Did you make it to church safely today? Do you have an income that meets your needs? Are you healthy today? As human beings we tend to complain to each other and to the Lord when things aren’t going well; but how often do we thank Him when things are going right?

    Ever noticed how when you give a little child a special privilege or treat, he’s forgotten all about it and is ready for something else in no time at all? “But that was a long time ago!” he may tell you. Don’t we act just like that? When a momentous event occurs in our lives to clearly show the hand of God intervening in a situation, we are thankful, joyous, ecstatic. But a few years or months or even days later, we’re back to “situation normal” and we fail to appreciate His hand continuing to protect us and meet our daily needs.

    How can we ever hope to win a lost world to Jesus Christ when we are so ready to complain and so slow to give thanks? We should be busy telling others what the Lord has done for us. We should be mindful of the little blessings just as we are for the big ones. We should have so much joy that those around us who don’t know Christ as Lord and Savior look at us and have to ask, “What makes you so different?”

    We should be praising God when we find a safe parking place at the mall. We should be thanking Him for the money to whisk through the drive-through and pick up dinner. We should be glorifying His name for His continual presence in our lives. Our attitudes of joy should be winning others to Jesus.

    “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20, NIV).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Has an untrue statement about yourself ever made its way back to your ears? Some years ago I was absolutely stunned by something that had been said about me. I prayed for guidance, then went to talk the person who had made the statement.

    To say I was poorly received is an understatement. I didn’t approach her in an accusatory manner and I never raised my voice or showed anything other than a loving quiet spirit. Yet no matter what I said to try to calmly dissuade her from her belief that her false statement had any credence, it was abundantly clear that she wasn’t changing her mind. I walked away, knowing her negative statements about me and attitude toward me were not going to change one iota.

    More recently, I found out that a lady has been bad-mouthing me for years saying I had taken advantage of an elderly relative of hers. If you call being a friend and taking her places and spending time with her “taking advantage,” then I’m guilty as charged. This lady assumed that: because her relative was (A) elderly and (B) well-off financially, I wouldn’t want to spend time with her unless there was something in it for me. And she was right. There was something in it for me: a wonderful friendship and the sharing of years of experience and godly living.

    Did I confront that charming relative? Nope. I’ve finally gotten old enough and maybe even wise enough to realize that when it comes to people who can’t be reasoned with, the best thing to do is leave them alone. Pray for them, yes; but don’t try to change their opinions of you or anything else. I rest in the knowledge that Jesus Christ, who knows me better than I know myself, knows my heart and that I would never take advantage of anyone.

    If you’re like me and want to “fix” everything, you need to hear this: we’re not obligated to solve every problem that involves ourselves, let alone the whole world. What we are obligated to do is either prayerfully: (A) take whatever action we can to ATTEMPT to resolve the problem and then, REGARDLESS of how we are received, to respond in a loving, Christ-like manner; or (B) leave the situation alone, put it in God’s hands and continue to pray for your own attitude and that of anyone else involved.

    And only by following the Holy Spirit’s guidance can you know which of these options is the right thing to do. Be at peace knowing that Jesus knows the truth and let that be enough.

    “When people verbally abuse us, we bless them. When people persecute us, we endure it. When our reputations are attacked, we remain courteous” (I Corinthians 4:12b-13a, God’s Word).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Yesterday we looked at how the disciples were taught an important lesson about how those things we entrust to the Lord can be bountifully blessed and multiplied. But that same passage, Matthew 14:13-21, contains another valuable lesson.

    In Verse 16b, Jesus said “You give them something to eat” (NIV). Think about that for just a minute. Did Jesus need His disciples’ help? Of course not! Yet He privileged them with an opportunity to be a part of His ministry.

    Jesus doesn’t need our help either; yet He gives us this same privilege of being used for His glory. If you read the wonderful words of John 21:15-17, you see Jesus instruct Peter: “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17b, NIV). And then over in First Peter 5:2 Peter continues his Lord’s command: “Feed the flock of God which is among you” (King James, Cambridge edition).

    Jesus wants those of us who have been nurtured in the Word to share our food. We’re not to tank up even on the Word of God for only the sake of feeding ourselves – we’re to share with others.

    Are you being spiritually nourished? If so, are you sharing your bounty with others?

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    “I’m just one person!” “We’re a small church.” “A lot of the classes are bigger than ours.” “You know, we’re not ‘money’ people.” You hear all these statements often preceded by “We [or I] wish we could do more, but…” Truthfully, though, what does each one of these boil down to? WE CAN’T DO IT!!!!

    The disciples were people just like us. In Matthew 14:13-21 we read about the five thousand men who followed Jesus far out into the middle of nowhere. In addition to the men there were untold numbers of women and children. Jesus began to minister to the crowd and, as evening drew closer, the disciples pointed out to Jesus that He should send the people away so they could go buy something to eat. Isn’t that just like us humans – imagine, giving the Lord advice!

    Jesus, knowing that the people were hungry and knowing that His disciples needed to learn a lesson, told His disciples, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them” (Matthew 14:16, NLT).

    So the disciples promptly obeyed, right? Not exactly. They went through the crowd and came back to Jesus and reported, “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” (verse 17). In other words, they were saying, “See, Lord! What you asked of us is impossible. Now send these people away so they can find food.”

    But what did Jesus do? He multiplied that which was entrusted to Him and thousands of people were fed on the bounty of one submitted meal. How He desires to do the same thing for us today. No, He won’t pry it from your hands and force you to hand it over, but when you willingly give Him your time, your talent, your gifts, your money (which are all His anyway, if you are His – see First Cor. 6:19a-20b) He will multiply these abundantly.

    True enough, we can’t do much. But we serve an awesome God who can do ANYTHING through a believer who is fully trusting Him.

    What wonders will you allow the Lord to work through you?

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    Winning eternal life is a contest no one has to lose. Winning means accepting Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. But becoming a Christian is the BEGINNING of new life, not the END. Once a person is saved, each new day is another opportunity for personal growth and to reach others for the Kingdom of God.

    I love to read the writings of the apostle Paul because I love word pictures and Paul was big on these. In First Corinthians 9:24 Paul uses the image of a foot race to depict the Christian life. He says: “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” (NLT).

    Can you imagine entering a foot race without doing any training beforehand? Can you imagine entering without any intentions of trying to win? Neither behavior would make any sense, would it?

    Yet many who have entered the Christian life through faith in Jesus Christ have entered with the misunderstanding that their arrival into the family of God marks the END of their journey rather than its BEGINNING. A lot of folks might have a pretty good shot at winning a fifty-yard dash. But what about a marathon? Now that’s an entirely different story. While many might be able to put out the short-term effort required for a fifty-yarder, it takes rigorous self-denying discipline to train for the endurance of a marathon.

    And a MARATHON is what Paul is referring to when we read the word RACE in First Corinthians! The Christian life isn’t some mamby-pamby jog through the park. It’s a gut-wrenching, all-out, full scale ENDURO!

    Don’t just take up space on the racetrack. Get in there with the determination to be the best you can be. Ask the Lord to strengthen you for the long haul. Your Companion, your Comforter, God’s Holy Spirit, will run with you every step of the way.

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates


    The story is told of an old mule that lived in a small pasture near a farmhouse. One stormy night the gate blew open and the mule wandered through the opening and out of the safety of his corral. As he was ambling along he walked across some boards covering an ancient dry well which promptly gave way, plunging the mule to the bottom of the hole.

    The farmer, waking and hearing the mule’s braying, hurried to the spot and immediately realized his mule was in a miserable situation. There was no way to assess the mule’s injuries without going down into the well. There was no way to pull the mule out without someone going down into the well and getting the mule into some sort of harness. Neither task was a viable option because there was too much danger of the well’s sides caving in or the injured animal thrashing about and crushing the would-be rescuer.

    As time passed and the farmer continued to consider the problem, the mule ceased his struggling and lay on his side, his breathing becoming more and more shallow. The farmer realized that his faithful workmate was about to breathe his last.

    “The best thing we can do,” the farmer told his gathered friends, “is go ahead and bury the poor thing. There’s no reason for him to keep suffering.”

    With that the farmer dug a shovel into the earth and began to heap dirt on top of the mule. The other men joined in and the soil began to rain down on the motionless animal.

    Dirt filled his ears and nostrils and scattered across his closed eyelids; but the old mule wasn’t quite dead. Suddenly, with all the strength he had left, he raised himself onto his haunches, shook, and stood. As he did, the soil fell to the floor of the well and the mule stepped atop it.

    The mule was so far down in the well that the men never saw the mule stand up, and the animal was far too spent for even the feeblest of brays. So the men continued to throw the dirt into the would-be grave. But the mule had decided to fight for his life. Each time a load of dirt landed upon him, he would shake it off and climb to the top of the mound.

    As time passed and the men kept shoveling, the mule’s ears came into view. “Hey, look!” the farmer called to his friends. “Why, that mule must be smarter than we are!”

    Realizing what the old mule was doing, the men began to shovel faster and faster. And each time the dirt hit the hole, the mule would step up on the load and get a little bit closer to the top. Little by little the mound grew taller and the mule was at last able to climb out.

    Moral of the story? That mule took a negative and turned it into a positive. He took the very thing intended to bury him and used it to give himself a brand new start.

    Are you in a situation that threatens to bury you? Don’t give up. Get up! With the Lord Jesus Christ in your life there is absolutely nothing that can defeat you.

    “The Messiah has set us free so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. So keep on standing firm in it…” (Galatians 5:1a, ISV).

    Copyright © 2012

    Judy Woodward Bates